"Women marry men they hope they can change, and men marry women whom they hope will never change". So says the wise, aging scoundrel played by Henry Stephenson, giving a terrific performance in this lavish looking Goldwyn film that features a story similar to Selznick's 1939 classic "Intermezzo", that of a decent man (Ronald Colman) who finds himself involved with another woman while married to a wonderful woman and separated from her. The separation comes because of the wife's (Kay Francis) silly younger sister (Florine McKinney), escorting her to Italy on a whim on the day before Colman and Francis's seventh anniversary. Stephenson takes Colman out to dinner where they meet two young women (Phyllis Barry and Viva Tattersall) and spend a night out on the town with them. Barry falls head over heels in love with Colman who warns her about his situation, but she cannot allow herself to go. Unlike Ingrid Bergman in "Intermezzo", Barry is emotionally immature, even if she's not an outwardly silly creature like McKinney, and the story indicates that nothing inappropriate occurs during the times Colman and Barry are together.
As he would do in his string of independent films of the 1930's, Samuel Goldwyn (along with director King Vidor and their artistic team) creates a very lavish fantasy like setting, with sensational glamorous restaurants, beautiful parks with lush greenery and art decco houses and other locales. From the reviews I've read, this has been referred to as being greatly dated, but the only thing I find perhaps dated about it is the fact that all three people involved in the situation are incredibly nice, although Barry's final act shows her to be an already troubled girl who needed more maturing before entering into any kind of serious relationship regardless of the other person's marital status. Francis gives her usual professional performance, noble yet not long-suffering, understanding yet not shocked when the revelations come out. Stephenson's character reminds me of the lovable old coots that Charles Coburn would later become famous for, and he steals every scene he is in with wit, wisdom and a touch of an "I've been there, done that...several times" attitude.
As for Barry, she instills her young character with a love of life in the zest of youth that is hiding an inner sadness, indicating that past affairs have not been fulfilling and that she's either doomed to end up alone...or simply just doomed. A surprising climax has the previously vivacious Tattersall confronting Colman over an acting towards Barry, showing a great loyalty and moral code that you didn't expect to come from her. While looking at gossip column reports on affairs today, this might seem a bit unrealistic, but this is a view of a different kind of affair, one where the outcome is about companionship and the avoidance of loneliness rather than one of strictly sexual pleasure. Today's audiences might laugh at such an operatic view of old school scandals, but there are many lessons here to be learned, from the art of personal grace to the meaning of what true love really is, and ultimately, what keeps a marriage together even beyond the worst of situations.