4 September 2004 | mritchie
Great fun for Myrna Loy fans
It's fun to see the plot of this early talkie careen back and forth between traditional melodrama and coming of age story, with some hints of almost incestuous attraction in a May-December romance. Conway Tearle plays a middle-aged bachelor who has raised the son of a friend (who died when the boy was only 6). Now the boy, affectionately nicknamed The Imp (David Manners) is turning 21 and he's engaged to be married to Loretta Young, daughter of Tearle's housekeeper. The Imp is a callow youth (after all, he's played by David Manners) and he skips a carefully planned birthday dinner to spend the night carousing with a sexy, gold digging nightclub singer (Myrna Loy). She thinks the boy has a big inheritance and so agrees to marry him when he asks her, but what she doesn't know is that Manners has very little money at all. Young finds a love letter from Loy to Manners, but Tearle covers up for Manners by saying it was written to him (they both have the same first name). This ploy, however, upsets Young even more; it turns out that she has been nursing a crush on the older man for some time. Tearle goes though an elaborate charade to keep the truth from Young, not realizing all the time that Young is miserable.
It's a 1930 movie, so it's a little stiff and stagy, in production and acting. Loy is wonderful, like a breath of fresh air whenever she's around, glittery and sexy and dangerous. Manners is his usual rather awkward self (when he's staring with lust at Loy, he looks rather like Harpo Marx during his drunk scene in THE COCOANUTS) but he has the leading man looks needed for the part. Young is not as good as she would be in later movies; both she and Tearle are rather stiff. The characters could be fleshed out a bit more; all the exposition is crammed into a long dialogue scene in the first ten minutes of the movie. I would particularly recommend this to Loy fans-it's always fun seeing her as a kind of femme fatal (as she was in several of her early films) and contrasting that image with her good-girl/wifely image later in her career.