For Reel

Easy to Love (1934)
March 24, 2014, 1:38 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Keighley
4.5 Stars
Easy to LoveThe trailer for 1934’s Easy to Love suggested that it was meant to be perceived as a step forward in the battle of the sexes–this would be a film that challenged the double standard in which men are all but expected to carry on affairs whereas for a woman to do so would be unthinkable. A title card reads: “See how they’ve [women] revised the moral code and put their boyfriends on the defense!” It is not at all accurate to suggest that this was breaking new ground in Hollywood–the pre-Code era features an especially high number of films that involve women challenging the standards that are imposed on them–but it does lay the groundwork for a film that takes tremendous glee in leveling the playing field between the sexes. The film follows Carol (Genevieve Tobin), a married woman whose husband John (Adolphe Menjou) has ceased being physical with her as he carries out an affair with Charlotte (Mary Astor). As revenge, Carol makes John believe that she is sleeping with his best friend, a wealthy but thoroughly hapless schlub named Eric (Edward Everett Horton). The innuendo-laced dialogue gets especially risqué–Menjou discusses his exhaustion after polo matches, an excuse clear to the audience and to his wife that he’s been having a lot of extramarital sex. It is the adult banter of this sort (delivered with the manic energy that Warner Brothers did best) that makes the picture so memorable, establishing it as one of the last great relics of pre-Code comedy. Beyond the tremendous dialogue, the cast is uniformly terrific, with the always hilarious Horton being the scene-stealer. Guy Kibbee appears late in the picture to oversee a would-be wedding set in the raunchiest of locations.

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