For Reel

A Woman of Experience (1931)
August 8, 2014, 1:31 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Harry Joe Brown
3 Stars
A Woman of ExperienceLargely forgotten today, Helen Twelvetrees had a short run at the top of RKO’s stable of leading women in the early 1930s before Katharine Hepburn began her path to stardom. She undeniably had the appropriate look–her pained, doe-eyed glances can make even the most stone-hearted viewers melt. Beyond her beauty and her ability to convey heartbreak, she also carried herself with a certain world-weary sophistication. Whereas Constance Bennett excelled at playing high-society molls, Twelvetrees has her own sort of empowered dignity that remains earthbound. A Woman of Experience is largely a forgettable vehicle for the star–a sort of hodgepodge between Waterloo Bridge and Mata Hari that suffers from a meandering plot and a rather dull love interest in William Bakewell. The most remarkable achievements come from director Harry Joe Brown and cinematographer Hal Mohr. Brown, who directed a number of films towards the end of the silent era, clearly prides himself as a visual storyteller. Early on, there’s a beautiful scene in which a letter blows through the wind and the camera follows it until it lands at Twelvetrees’ feet. Another scene of note is an early use of an inner dialogue on the soundtrack. Brown cuts to a close-up and Mohr slowly blurs the images to focus on her thoughts, creating a perfect harmony in sound and image to convey a sense of interiority.

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