13 November 2010 | AlsExGal
It's hard to laugh if you're hungry...
... or make a wise decision concerning your future for that matter. The life of ex-chorus girl Peggy (Nancy Carroll) now socialite wife to public utilities king C. Morton Gibson (Frank Morgan) seems to be an object lesson in this fact. Peggy is already a millionaire's wife by the time the film opens, so we don't see any of her past life, just the human remnants of it. First there's Ralph, an overwrought starving artist who is obsessed with memories of Peggy but whom Peggy never apparently loved. Next there's Paul Lockridge (Fredric March), starving musician, whom Peggy did love but was overseas at the time she made the decision to marry Gibson, and thus could not plead his case.
Peggy doesn't have to worry about being hungry anymore, in fact she doesn't have to worry about anything in her new life. However, her husband treats her like a cross between a bird in a gilded cage and a welfare case, always talking about her "unfortunate past" and scrutinizing her every unexplained absence. Neither is he a particularly passionate fellow - accumulating more and more cash is his real passion. The lack of joy in Peggy's life comes to the surface when Paul returns from Europe to win her back. His only asset - laughter, the joy of life lived experience by experience. Add to this a chance meeting of Peggy's unstable old suitor, Ralph, with Peggy's new stepdaughter, Marjorie, that turns romantic and complications abound.
This is a rather understated film, nothing is particularly laugh-out-loud funny or horribly suspenseful and melodramatic save for a couple of short scenes in each case. Thus the film's success largely rests on the acting of the performers, which is quite good. Since this film was made in 1930, many might think it is about the desperate decisions and trade-offs people had to make to keep eating during those times, but it really predates the depression.
This is a good one for fans of Nancy Carroll, who plays her understated role very well - that of a decent woman whose profession of chorus girl guarantees not only that she has just a few good years to make a decision on the only profession that could come afterwards for such women in the 1920's - marrying well, but that everyone automatically doubts her character because of her profession.