10 January 2013 | MartinHafer
Amazingly sleazy...but also highly entertaining!
Joel McCrea plays an American artist living in Paris. He hires a woman (Constance Bennett) to be his nude model and eventually they fall in love. However, when he learns she has a tawdry past, he runs off to brood. Later, at debaucherous party, they meet once again. Soon, he asks her to marry him--she suggests they cohabitate to see if he really wants her. When the scandal of this relationship reaches his rich parents' ears, his mother schemes to pull the two lovers apart. However, in a strange scene, McCrea's on-screen father says that he heartily approves of the pair living together and wishes them the best! What happens next? See this odd film for yourself to find out for yourself.
If you haven't guessed, this film is CLEARLY an example of Pre-Code sensibilities. What I mean by that is that up until mid-1934, Hollywood's sense of morality was FAR looser than most folks would believe today. This was especially true from 1930-34--where adultery, premarital sex, violence, foul language, abortion and partial nudity were not terribly uncommon on the screen. But this moral code was not in line with America and soon folks started avoiding movies and ticket sales dropped. Soon, to lure back families, a strengthened Production Code was enforced--and films became, at times, a bit over-sanitized--but very family-friendly. Because of all this, there is zero chance this film could have been made after the Code was enforced--at least not without LOTS of revisions as well as a clear message that such immorality MUST be punished. But here in "The Common Law", the villains are NOT people who flaunt morality but the narrow-minded folks who don't approve and who, in some cases, are simply hypocrites! So is it worth seeing? Well, the film is well-acted and interesting. And, I do enjoy seeing many of the Pre-Code films because they are so strange and confusing--and entertaining!! So, I'd say this is very much worth seeing and a fine example of the genre.
If this isn't a plot that screams 'I'm a Pre-Code film!', nothing is!!