There are a few points of interest in 'Worldly Goods', but they're interesting for the wrong reasons.
SPOILERS THROUGHOUT. The leading male character in this movie, Fred Hopper, is astonishingly similar to Aubrey Piper, the title character in George Kelly's stage comedy "The Show-Off", which was a smash hit on Broadway the same year 'Worldly Goods' was made. Both characters are blowhards with big schemes and the gift of gab but nothing to show for it. Yet 'Worldly Goods' and 'The Show-Off' diverge in several crucial ways. Aubrey Piper ultimately makes good, whilst Fred Hopper remains a blowhard at the fade-out. 'The Show- Off' was sheer comedy, while 'Worldly Goods' teeters uncertainly between comedy and drama. And Aubrey Piper was the central character in 'The Show-Off', whereas in 'Worldly Goods' the emphasis is not on blowhard Hopper but rather his wife Eleanor.
When we first meet her, she's unmarried Eleanor Lawson (played by Agnes Ayres, who's quite pretty here but only a moderate actress). She formerly welcomed the attentions of suave Clifford Ramsay (Victor Varconi), but then she meets the aforementioned blowhard Fred Hopper, played by Pat O'Malley. There were several different actors named Pat O'Malley or some slight variation: this O'Malley is dark-haired, stocky, with an oddly-shaped nose and otherwise quite unmemorable. Hopper has a flashy line of patter that dazzles Eleanor, convincing her that he's going to be a big success any day now. She straight away marries him. Fade out. Time for the projectionist to change reels.
Fade in again a year later. Hopper is still all talk and no action, and Eleanor (now Mrs Hopper) is deep in debt and drudgery. There's a good but brief performance by Otto Lederer as the collection man who shows up to repossess Eleanor's engagement ring. Clifford has stood by her, urging her to divorce Hopper, who seems no closer to making good.
Eventually, Eleanor's mother intercedes. (Good performance by Edythe Chapman in a badly-written role.) It develops that Eleanor's travails with her husband are a replay of the marital woes of her parents. Eleanor's father (Bert Woodruff) has all the same character flaws as Fred Hopper, but Mrs Lawson has stood by him. With motherly wisdom, she explains to Eleanor that it's the job of every woman to make the best of her husband.
Oh, please! In 1924, only five years after American women got the vote, this mentality — that a woman is better off with a bad husband than with no husband at all — was already out of date. 'Worldly Goods' might have worked as an outright comedy, but as a mixture of comedy and drama it just doesn't gel: it merely coagulates.
A crucial flaw here is the casting of Pat O'Malley, who's simply too lacklustre an actor for the large and flashy role in which he's been cast. I wish that the casting director had made O'Malley and Otto Lederer swap roles.
This film's main point of interest is that it was directed by Paul Bern, a film figure now remembered solely for his mysterious death while married to Jean Harlow. I subscribe to the theory advanced by Samuel Marx (MGM's story editor) that Bern was murdered by Dorothy Millette. The films directed by Bern (including 'Worldly Goods') are not especially impressive, but he showed real ability and discernment as a producer. He might have gone on to a major film career, although you wouldn't know it from 'Worldly Goods'. I'll rate this one just 5 out of 10.
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