22 April 2021 | AlsExGal
23 years before Adam's Rib...
... comes this cute comedic little silent film about feminism and competition between spouses or, in this case, spouses to be.
Norma Shearer plays Nina Duane, a defense attorney. Conrad Nagel plays district attorney Philip Barry. Apparently their romance has been going on for some time, and Barry wants a traditional marriage, so that means Nina would have to quit her job. She proposes three tests. Whoever wins two out of three dictates marriage terms. The first test is a swimming contest, and Barry wins that one.
The second one takes up lots of screen time and is odd and funny. It's about some brutish looking guy, accused of a crime never mentioned. His associates want Nina to be the defense attorney. She accepts and also makes it the second test - her as defense attorney against Barry as DA. It is the oddest trial I've ever seen. At no point does either of them ever state facts, nor are there any witnesses. They just humorously pontificate. The defendant looks like somebody I'd cross the street to avoid, he is such a rough looking character. There is also a funny scene of Nagel and Shearer stacking things on Lady Justice's scales to signify their contest. This time the contest goes to Shearer.
So we are down to one contest. On Shearer's side - the progressive party, due to her high profile win against Barry, wants her to run against him for the office of District Attorney. On Nagel's side - there is a beautiful flirty black widow who wants him to be her third late husband. This film is very cute and amusing and I'm surprised I've never heard of it before.
Maybe part of it is lost. The print I saw ran at exactly an hour. There is just a still of the MGM lion at the beginning, and new frames have been inserted for the credits. I think that the title cards are newly printed too. Someone else mentioned that the music did not to fit the mood for the film, but I thought it worked well. By the way, the title cards are quite verbose. Maybe Dorothy Arzner could have done more with it, but considering it was such light-hearted fare I think Robert Z. Leonard was more than adequate as director. Cedric Gibbons did the art design, and he showed his expected attention to detail.
Recommended for silent fans. Though an MGM property, I'm not expecting this to show up on Turner Classic Movies restored and with a new score anytime soon, although that would be a treat.