For Reel

Behind Office Doors (1931)
March 15, 2014, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Melville W. Brown
3 Stars
Behind Office DoorsMary Astor is superb in this otherwise fairly humdrum office melodrama in which a devoted secretary (Astor) is hopelessly in love with her boss (Robert Ames), only he’s too dense and self-involved to see it. The big problem with the screenplay is that Ames’ character is wrought to be a thoroughly pompous bastard–that Astor is so loyal in her romantic pursuits cheapens what is otherwise a finely written female lead. Her final emotional breakdown (occurring just after she hears of her boss’ engagement to a woman of his class) is a devastating moment, but for the audience her rage is almost cathartic: “I made him look like a gentleman! […] I’ve shared his troubles and worries! […] But when it comes to a girl with beauty and money and the glamour of position, I can’t do a thing!” The outburst is rendered all the more heartbreaking considering her otherwise understated performance, in which her affections are displayed through glances, body language (proximity is key), and sly smiles. It’s a shame not much else in the film is worthy of her talents–in fact, it is as sloppily made as any production from the era, with several flubbed edits in which a shot is cut to before the characters (mid-conversation) have entered the frame.