For Reel


No More Ladies (1935)
February 1, 2015, 2:04 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward H. Griffith
3.5 Stars
No More LadiesThis drawing room comedy about a troubled socialite marriage is nearly indistinguishable from the rest of its genre, but despite its forgettability there are a handful of laughs and good performances. It plays like a sanitized take on The Divorcee, which exposed the double standard in which husbands treat their infidelities as trivial until their wives turn the tables around on them. As the vindictive new bride, Joan Crawford only allows herself a few moments of wallowing before setting her sights on revenge. Donald Ogden Stewart is credited as a co-writer of the screenplay (adapted from a successful Broadway play by Augustus Thomas) and the film plays like a primitive draft of his masterpiece The Philadelphia Story, with a handful of eccentric characters witnessing the shifts of power in a complicated relationship. This being an MGM production, all three of the leads (the reliably charming Franchot Tone plays Montgomery’s eventual competition) are incredibly well-dressed and photographed, with Crawford’s gowns being the highlight. Charles Ruggles, Edna May Oliver, and especially Arthur Treacher, playing a caricatured British socialite who doesn’t understand American slang, each deliver laughs in their supporting roles.



Another Language (1933)
August 22, 2012, 5:13 am
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Director: Edward H. Griffith

An optimistic newlywed is crushed to learn that her husband favors his exclusionary family over her in Another Language, an intelligent pre-Code drama that surpasses many “nasty in-law” pictures through the quietly devastating relationship that forms between star Helen Hayes and the nephew who comes to love her, played by John Beal. As the husband is the talented Robert Montgomery, a reliable asset who was fit for these rougher, harder-to-love roles (one of his great performances was as the world-weary Lt. Brickley in John Ford’s wartime masterpiece, They Were Expendable). Though the family is rendered almost entirely unsympathetically, what is interesting about them is how functional they are – they are merely passive-aggressive, with their meanness manifesting through seemingly loving teases, as when they push Beal too far. Herman J. Mankiewicz, adapting the material from Rose Franken’s play, is wise to never stray too far into making them grotesque caricatures. Hayes is good in her part as the wife whose morale is slowly draining having been stuck in a marriage with an unloving, increasingly cruel husband, and Margaret Hamilton, reprising her role from the play, appears as an aunt in her first screen performance (her most iconic role would be as the dastardly Wicked Witch of the West).



The Animal Kingdom (1932)
August 16, 2012, 7:56 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward H. Griffith

Hollywood found significant success in adapting the work of playwright Philip Barry with George Cukor’s Holiday and The Philadelphia Story, released in 1938 and 1940 respectively. Prior to those classics, a significantly more dramatic play, entitled The Animal Kingdom, was adapted by producer David O. Selznick and became a turning point in the career of Myrna Loy, who had up to that time been playing Eastern sirens in films like The Mask of Fu Manchu. Her performance in the picture is not much of a stretch – again, she plays a manipulative beauty – but she has a fine understatement that was, for obvious reasons, not optimal in “vamp” roles. Leslie Howard stars as a book publisher who has a live-in relationship with an artist played by Ann Harding. Pressured by his father, he agrees to marry Loy, who dictates his career by convincing him to publish less artistically satisfying but significantly higher-selling pulp novels. Few pictures of the period explore the relationships of artists more satisfactorily – both Howard and Harding make questionable career choices and they openly criticize one another for them, not so much mean-spiritedly but rather as a display of affection and mutual respect. When Howard tells Harding that her exhibit was not particularly good, what he means to say is that she can do better. Such details contribute to fine understatement in the dialogue, but director Edward H. Griffith doesn’t have much of a visual sense and as such the picture falls into the trap of other stage-play adaptations of the period, feeling all-too stilted. Howard and Harding don’t make a convincing couple, although Harding, with a low voice and an atypical beauty, makes an argument for herself as having a career worth further investigation.