7 April 2019 | lugonian
A Woman's Impulse
INDISCREET (United Artists, 1931), directed by Leo McCarey, is not an early movie edition to the 1958 Cary Grant-Ingrid Bergman comedy bearing the same name, but a comedy based on the play "Obey That Impulse" by songwriters, Lew Brown, B.G. DeSylva and Ray Henderson, who also produced. Starring Gloria Swanson, a popular leading actress of the silent screen who has found some luck in early talkies as THE TRESPASSER (1929), who not only has a couple of suitors for INDISCREET, but gets to sing a couple of songs as well.
The story begins on New Year's Eve where Geraldine Trent (Gloria Swanson), a New York dress designer, decides to break off her engagement with Jim Woodward (Monroe Owsley), whom she feels isn't worthy of having him for her husband. Through Timothy Collins, better known as Buster (Arthur Lake), Jerry is introduced to his friend, Tony Blake (Ben Lyon), a novelist, who practices what he preaches through his latest book, "Obey That Impulse" by immediately falling in love with Gerry, wanting to marry her first, then getting to know her later. Finding him a bit crazy in his actions, Jerry finds Tony to be worthy of becoming her husband. In the meantime, Gerry's kid sister, Joan (Barbara Kent), convent educated in Paris, whom she hasn't seen in two years, is returning home by boat. Seriously in love with a man she met abroad, Jerry is surprised the man she's engaged to is Jim rather than Buster, who loves her. Gerry attempts on breaking up their relationship, but Joan refuses to listen to her warnings that she's engaged to a cad. At a social function in Westbury hosted by Jim's conservative parents (Henry Kolker and Nella Walker), where their engagement is to be announced, at first Jerry, who attends, pretends to have a touch of family insanity. When that doesn't work, she pretends her love for Jim, which hurts her more than helps when they are caught together by Joan and Tony. Maude Eburne also co-stars as Gerry's Aunt Kate.
Reportedly produced as a musical, only two songs survive in the existing print, including Gloria Swanson singing to the camera to "If You Haven't Got the Love," followed later by two renditions of "Come to Me." The problem with the song interludes is that Swanson is no singer. Her vocalizing style weakens the film. One notable scene, however, occurs during her shower/bath scene that reveals Swanson in silhouette behind glass shower door. What makes INDISCREET interesting viewing today is watching Gloria Swanson years before her triumph comeback performance in SUNSET BOULEVARD (Paramount, 1950), and Arthur Lake before winning immortality as Dagwood Bumstead in the "Blondie" movie series for Columbia Pictures (1938-1950).
Theatrically released at 92 minutes, circulating prints are 73 minutes. Being a reissue print minus twenty minutes of material makes one wonder what was deleted, and if INDISCREET will ever be seen again in its original theatrical format. Sudden cuts and blackouts that have been circulating on public television and video cassette since the early 1980s, along with DVD presentations, make INDISCREET both uneven and disjointed. A public domain title, which had some television showings in the now defunct cable channels as Tempo or Channel America back in the late 1980s. While a possible restoration may or may not make much of a difference, at least its original length might make better sense in its scenario, indicating how INDISCREET was originally presented to theater audiences way back in 1931. (**)