6 October 2020 | AlsExGal
Lewis Stone! You dog you!
This film is lost, so I can't review it. I can just give you a few facts. The film elements are completely lost, but UCLA has the sound discs. Some lists, even on Wikipedia, say the film "exists". This is not true. Wonder of Women was a silent film in spite of its July 1929 release date, so the discs are just sound effects and score.
My title comes from the fact that Lewis Stone, pillar of the community and patriarch of the MGM Hardy Family series of movies from the late 30s and into the 40s, played the precode romantic cad quite a bit in the late silent and early sound era. This was one of those parts, so it is quite sad that the film's visual elements are lost.
The story is based on a 1927 German novel, so it is a Jazz Age film based on a Jazz Age story. Stone plays a concert pianist and composer who also loves the ladies. He actually marries a more mature responsible woman with three children (Peggy Wood). And this is where things get murky. Some synopses say his wife was the unfaithful one and he only stayed because one of his stepchildren died. Another one says he was the one with wanderlust, and in particular, rekindled an affair with an old lover, Karen (Leila Hyams).
The publicity stills that remain show that high society gloss that MGM was so good at in the age of Irving Thalberg, with great art deco scenes and at least one still shot insinuating a confrontation between the wife and the mistress with Stone's character in the middle. The film was nominated for one Academy Award for writing, and I would read the novel and try to unravel at least what the source material was, but unfortunately all copies available are in German.
I will give MGM this. Of all of the studios, theirs is the one with the highest percentage of silent and early sound films that remain. Paramount actually managed to lose a film that won the first Best Actor award, and other studios have just pawned their silent properties off on boutique labels if they bother to do anything with the rights at all. Here's hoping the whole thing shows up someday, but given the lifespan of nitrate film at this point that is unlikely.
An interesting bit of minutia: Blanche Frederici plays Lewis Stone's maid in this film. The following year Blanche has a small but memorable role as an author who smokes cigars and wears mens' clothing in the precode film "The Office Wife", again, starring Lewis Stone.