26 August 2005 | Ursula_Two_Point_Seven_T
Witty dialogue + interesting glimpse into the past
Not great, but certainly I enjoyed watching this fun little oldie. I'll probably forget about it a week from now, so I'd better review it while it's still fresh! I enjoyed the (sometimes) witty dialogue which often had double-entendres or hidden meanings. Constance Bennett had some of the best lines.
A group of four well-off men (Gaylord (Kenneth MacKenna), Reggie (Basil Rathbone), and two others) socialize together, each with a beautiful girl on their arm. The two married men are seeing single girls (possibly call girls? it seemed to hint at that only very briefly at the beginning of the film), and the two single men go for married women. Reggie actually only dates women in Europe -- he goes there to "play" but in his home city of New York remains unencumbered, truly a no-strings-attached bachelor/playboy.
Gaylord's married girlfriend is itching to get a divorce and snag Gaylord as husband #3 or #4. Gaylord has no desire to get married, and so to solve this problem he gets married (yes I wrote that sentence correctly!) -- he enters into a loveless, marriage of convenience with his secretary so that he can't be snagged into marriage by his girlfriend. He then sends his wife/secretary off to Europe with a tidy sum of money for her troubles so that he can continue his playboy ways.
It was interesting to see the morals (or lack thereof!) that so many of the characters exhibited as well as what the "rules" of the day were regarding divorce. As there was no such thing as a 'no fault divorce' back then, often elaborate excuses needed to be fabricated (as we see Gaylord, a divorce attorney himself, rattling off to his secretary regarding his various female clients who need new excuses for their third or fourth divorces). Another way out of marriage was proved infidelity - emphasis on proved - and this involved naming a "correspondent", i.e., the person with whom the cheating married spouse was having an affair. One part I didn't quite understand was when one of Gaylord's married male friends told him that the best way to fool around with married women was if you were married yourself, that way you couldn't be named correspondent in a potential divorce. So, only *single* men (or women) could be named correspondents??? I didn't understand if that was indeed true for real life at the time, or if it was just some not-very-well-explained plot device for getting Gaylord to enter into his sham marriage in order to set up the main plot of the movie.
Well, that's just a little sidebar tangent I went off on. The main plot of the movie involves a love triangle (square?) of sorts between Gaylord, his wife/secretary (Sylvia, played by Constance Bennett), and Reggie. Seems like Sylvia loves Gaylord, or at least would like him to love her; Reggie pursues Sylvia (he's a raging playboy so is it just the challenge of the conquest or does he really love her?); and then there's Gaylord who seems to be interested in his wife, but only after he's sent her off to Europe and he sees pictures in the newspaper society section of his lovely transformed wife hanging out at the races with Reggie. Throw Gaylord's married girlfriend into the mix and you've got a love "square" instead of triangle.
The above sets the movie's plot into motion; the remainder of the movie is to see who will be honest with whom and how all these people and couplings will end up.
I enjoyed Basil Rathbone in this flick -- I've never seen him in his most famous incarnation as Sherlock Holmes, I've only seen him in two other movies, where he played a real b*st*rd in both (David Copperfield and Anna Karenina), so it was nice to see him in a different type of role here. Constance Bennett was pretty good -- she plays better at lighter comedy, this seemed just a tad too sophisticated for her, but she did a good job nonetheless; no complaints really. And I really enjoyed Kenneth MacKenna, although judging from his resume here on IMDb, it looks like I probably won't be seeing him in any other movie any time soon, unless TCM pulls something really obscure out of its vault. I wonder why Mr. MacKenna made so few films -- he was a nice enough looking man in this flick and handled the acting fairly well. Hmmm, who knows. He lived into the 1960s. With the exception of 3 films in the last three years of his life, IMDb shows his film career as non-existent between 1933-1960. Maybe he decided the movie biz wasn't for him.
Overall score: 6/10
Edited 9/21/06 to add: I am reading a book on Kay Francis and was interested to learn that Kenneth MacKenna was married to Kay for about 3-4 years in the early 30s (they were divorced in early 1934). He preferred being behind the camera directing rather than out in front, so that explains his disappearance from film acting after 1933.