10 August 2002 | tashman
What a treat to see such an unexpectedly saucy picture. SWEETHEARTS AND WIVES is a true romp of a sex farce, delightfully frank and featuring performances filled with genuine joy and colorful flourishes. Of particular interest are the provocative and engaging character turns by Clive Brook and especially by that canny ingenue, Leila Hyams. Hyams plays a married woman about to cheat on her husband, and at all times she manages to balance moral outrage with intriguing randy-ness. Both her contempt for her own situation and her game ability to play along with the farce are quite contemporary, and thoroughly charming, making one wonder why Hyams rarely got more challenging material to work with. Of the four main characters, leading man Sidney Blackmer is the least distinctive, although he seems much more committed to his playing than I've seen in many other films he's done, and he is certainly having a good time. Star-above-the-title Billie Dove, still gorgeous and with a fine, melodic speaking voice, begins her performance in cultured Hollywood French, and it is a relief when, fairly early on in the plot, she is given great reason to drop the French Maid act, and this is when SWEETHEARTS AND WIVES takes off as a sophisticated hoot. One of the most distinctive of those "colorful flourishes" is brought by the often stone cold stoic Clive Brook. In this picture, he plays a Divorce Detective, and he races with his role, having an enormously ripping good time brandishing a long cigarette holder and making smoking resemble the occupation hinted at by Lady Bracknell in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST.