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  • Based on a 1913 stage play and twice filmed during the silent era, The Misleading Lady is a slight pre-code variant of The Taming of the Shrew, with Colbert as a scheming socialite who meets her match in the out-of-touch wildlife explorer (Edmund Lowe) she ventures to ensnare.

    Neither gold digger nor vamp, Helen Steele is not particularly interested in landing a man. After all, she got both the finances and the fiancé to be set for life. But what a life! Parties, gossip, and insufferable boredom. It is the chance at reinvention that proves irresistible to her.

    Finding it difficult to convince a theatrical producer that she is just right for the part of a siren in a new play he is mounting, Helen vows to give this sceptic a real-life demonstration of her seductive powers. To be considered for the role, she accepts the challenge of getting the thoroughly old-fashioned and downright misogynistic Jack Craigen to propose to her within three days of their first encounter. So, Helen's engagement ring changes fingers and the bet is on. Jack, who has just returned from a jungle expedition, turns out to be surprisingly easy prey—until he discovers, in a rather humiliating manner, what we know from the start: that Helen has neither been forthright nor free.

    Can this modern woman be conquered by brute force? Jack is enamoured enough to give it a shot. This is pre-code romance, so pretty much anything goes as Helen is abducted, trapped, stripped and chained. The farce, which also confronts the increasingly terrified young woman with a lunatic on the run (Stuart Erwin), would have been more enjoyable and less disconcerting in its handling of the conquest had it not been approached like a neo- Gothic melodrama, a genre for which director Stuart Walker—the most "misleading" person in this production—had a far greater affinity.

    In 1935, Colbert's most memorable shrew-taming co-star, Clark Gable, played the role of Jack in a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation. Yet even though The Misleading Lady does not lack sex, sophistication, and subversion—the key ingredients of the later screwball comedies—It Happened One Night it just ain't.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The 1932 obscurity Misleading Lady is designated as a "comedy," but I'm not sure that's a proper designation. Because really, this is one twisted film – even when taking into consideration the sordid world of Pre-Code cinema.

    Claudette Colbert stars as Helen Steele, a glamorous socialite who's bored with her staid life of luxury. Claudette by the way looks bizarrely young here – if you've seen Lubitsch's 1931 film "The Smiling Lieutenant," she pretty much looks the same in this movie. Bobbed hair cut chin-length, her kohled eyes anime-sized, she appears almost waiflike; indeed it's hard to reckon her appearance in this movie with how she looked just a few months later in DeMille's "Sign of the Cross."

    The plot's preschool simple: Helen Steele wants to be an actress, and in order to convince a theater director she's the right leading lady for his new play, she bets she can make the famous, Hemingway-type big game hunter Jack Craigen (Edmund Lowe) propose to her…in three days. (If I'd had the role of Craigen this film would've been five minutes long – "Yes, I WILL marry you!" The End.)

    Helen plies Craigen with charm, Claudette really laying it on thick. Sulky, slinky, casting languorous looks, sprawling on divans and blowing thick puffs of cigarette smoke through her nostrils. Three days? More like three minutes and I'd be down on one knee.

    But anyone can see where the plot's going: Helen gets her man with ease but guess what, she finds that she's developed feelings for him too. Craigen proposes and through a laborious, pre-audio tape method Helen records his proposal on vinyl as proof of her conquest. The record's inadvertently played however and Helen's ruse is discovered. Craigen storms off, Helen tries to apologize…

    And here the movie gets really weird.

    An enraged Craigen tosses Helen into an autogyro and flies her against her will to his cabin in the middle of the snow-swept woods. There he manhandles her, drags her around, berates her, forces her to disrobe due to her soaking clothes (a nonetheless erotic scene in which Claudette is stripped down to her undergarments while cloaked in Sternbergian shadow), and even pinions her to the ground with a steel chain girdled about her waist. Through it all Claudette screams, she shrieks, she sobs. You want very much to murder this Craigen, and you wonder once again why this movie is designated as a "comedy."

    But it gets worse. A psychopath named Boney (Stuart Erwin) – an escaped mental patient who believes he's Napoleon – turns out to be hiding in Craigen's cabin. But before you think this movie's about to get even more twisted, it turns out Boney's one of those harmless, "slapstick" sort of psychopaths one only encounters in movies; Erwin attempts to lend the character a sort of Marx Brothers feel but fails miserably. I wonder if he's fully to be blamed. Stuart Walker directed this mess, and word is that despite (indeed perhaps due to) his theatrical background he had no competence in film directing; the majority of his films apparently were directed by assistants (ie Mitchell Leisen, who directed the Walker-credited films "Tonight is Ours" and "The Eagle and the Hawk," receiving only an "assistant" credit for his efforts).

    And make no mistake – Misleading Lady is a mess. Like most other early talkies this movie is ALL OVER THE PLACE. The first twenty minutes are a delightful romantic comedy, nearly screwball – bored socialite Helen attempting to tame the Great White Hunter but inadvertently falling for her prey. Thirty minutes in the movie becomes a date rape fantasy from hell, with Helen now the screaming abductee of her onetime prey. And the final twenty are something else altogether, nothing but drawn-out "comedic" bits with psycho Boney blathering about Wellington and Waterloo. In fact Claudette actually disappears from the film for several minutes and the abduction angle is just forgotten.

    Everything comes to a head when all of the main characters show up at the log cabin (despite that it's in the middle of the woods) and Helen and Craigen embrace, truly in love. Even though he kidnapped her, stripped her, chained her to the floor. Show this flick to Women's Lib groups and they'll go mad. And I can't say I'd blame them – this movie is just flat-out WRONG. The diverse parts don't hang together and the abduction-in-the-woods sequence is unforgivable; in today's day and age Craigen would be locked up and his public image ruined for life.

    Claudette's super-cute throughout, displaying all of the traits which would rocket her to stardom in a few years – and which would sustain her throughout her six-decade career. She does both comedy and drama, trading quips and batting her big anime-girl eyes in the more romantic parts. And she really projects terror in the abduction sequence. This is likely the closest she ever got to appearing in a horror film, and Claudette pulls it all off – gnashing her teeth, whimpering in fear, screaming, crying so hard that she sobs. These scenes could've easily come off as histrionic but Claudette gives them the right touch, makes it all believable. You feel her terror. Which only strengthens my argument that this movie is not a comedy.
  • It Happened One Night is her best performance but this really isn't far behind.Not only does she look at her best but plays her comic and dramatic scenes quite brilliantly. Plenty of her later comic roles lacked the freshness and sharpness of this 1932 film.Hidden Gem is too often used to describe films but if you are a fan of Colbert ,then you need to watch her performance. The film is not as funny as it could be but it has its moments and is well worth a watch. Edmund Lowe was excellent as the love interest for Colbert.I would go as far to say that his quick wit and comic timing were as good as any leading man I have seen her work with. The worst part of the film is the mad Napoleon character who totally overplays the role and really isn't that funny
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There's no way around it, but the truth is that Paramount's "The Misleading Lady" (1932) is a misleading mess.

    Perhaps we shouldn't blame the players, namely Claudette Colbert, Edmund Lowe and Stuart Erwin? That's certainly a great cast!

    Perhaps the problem lies with the director (Stuart Walker)? But is seems that Walker's hands were tied.

    The screenplay closely follows the plot of the successful 1913 Broadway play. So whu would want to change it?

    But frankly, although I thoroughly enjoyed the screwball comedy of the First Act, I found the extreme violence of the Second Act way out of place.

    And as for the bizarre introduction of a comic lunatic in the Third Act -- that was even more difficult to take on board.

    (This movie was formerly available on a very good VintageFilmBuff DVD).
  • A predictable love story is enlivened by a dose of pre-code S&M (even light bondage!), and a sexy Claudette Colbert. But the movie suffers from too much "Napoleon" - a bizarre comic relief character who, in the second half, actually gets more screen time than Colbert! That's just not right. ** out of 4.
  • By my score of only 2, you can tell that I thought this film was just really stupid and not the hilarious comedy it was meant to be. The plot is, to put it bluntly, just plain dumb and there isn't much to like about this dopey film. This is one of Claudette Colbert's early films...so this might explain how she got hooked into playing in this turkey!

    When the film begins, Helen (Claudette Colbert) is trying to convince a producer to cast her in a Broadway play. He refuses so she makes him a bet that makes no sense--if she can get the playboy, Jack Craigen (Edmund Lowe), to fall for her then she can have the part. So, she quickly gets him to fall for her--and in the process makes a total fool of poor Craigen. Now none of this made any sense and wasn't very good....little did I know that it was (by far) the BEST portion of the movie!

    Craigen responds to the embarrassment by kidnapping Helen. He takes her to his vacation home...only to discover that an escaped mental patient (Stu Erwin) is running about the place. Soon, Helen's fiancé shows up and a big showdown results.

    Stu Erwin's character was one of the worst I can recall having seen in a 1930s film...he was THAT bad. His mentally ill guy was a giant walking stereotype...and a bad one at that. He wore a Napoleonic style hat and declared he was that dead Emperor!! It was just incredibly dumb...and the rest of the film wasn't any better. Simply terrible from start to finish (and especially at the finish!).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When a coveted stage role comes up for grabs, a lesser known actress (Claudette Colbert) longs for the part but the producer isn't willing to take a chance on her. He thinks she's a goody-goody, and tells her if she can create some scandal, he'll consider her for the part. She goes for the gold, but ends up with a bit more than she bargained for thanks to misogynist Edmund Lowe. Resentful of being a victim of her prank, Lowe kidnaps her and the stage is set for what neither expected.

    This is an amusing if not great romantic comedy with the older Lowe putting kitten-like Colbert in her place after being publicly humiliated. Lowe and Colbert are in an odd Petruccio and Kate ("Taming of the Shrew") modern setting. The hysterical Stuart Erwin brightens things up even more as the macadamia hiding out in Lowe's cabin who thinks he's Napoleon. While it all wraps up too neatly, there's lots of amusement in between.
  • This Paramount Pre-Code was the third or fourth time this story had been filmed. Claudette Colbert is an actress trying to land a role in a playwright's unwritten show and to demonstrate she can play a fall-in-love-at-first-sight lead, she tries to make big-game-hunter Edmond Lowe fall in love with her, cutting a record of the event to demonstrate her talents. It works, but when other people find and play the record, Lowe blows up, kidnaps her and takes her to his country house.

    They're pretty good for most of the show, but the third act falls apart, as hordes of people (including Will Geer in his first screen role) wander in and out, including the inevitable escapee from an insane asylum who believes he is Napoleon. Perhaps others could have pulled it off, but this cast and crew can't.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Initially Claudette Colbert went from strength to strength with Paramount but after "Secrets of a Secretary" she fell into a rut where only her vibrant personality saved her. And it took everything she had to make "Misleading Lady" half decent. Here she plays Helen, a frivolous socialite, this time yearning to be an actress - she is bored, bored, bored with her "do nothing" life and decides to put all her energies into her secret passion, which is becoming an actress of course!! She wants to play the lead which is a woman of the world but the director who she has cornered at a country retreat feels she is too naïve and nice for the role. She makes a bet with him that if she can make woman hating explorer Jack Craigan (Edmund Lowe) fall in love with her before the weekend is over the part will be hers. It sounds completely idiotic but of course Claudette has you eating out of her hand!!

    Things go along smoothly until a drunken guest finds a recording she had made of Jack's ardent romantic declaration. She is mortified but Jack does the only thing possible - he steals a helicopter (Helen's dominant fiancée has just arrived in it) and kidnaps her to his remote cabin where he can teach her a lesson!!

    In this early version of a screwball comedy, odd people have a habit of turning up at the cabin uninvited!! There's Stuart Erwin, hilarious as a local crazy who is convinced he's Napoleon (there's a running gag - "Are you crazy" - "Aww, who told you"?), then there are the hospital keepers (Will Greer, Grandpa from "The Waltons" is one), William Gargan as a reporter on the look out for a big scoop and last but not least George Meeker as the less than impressed fiancée on the lookout for his helicopter.

    This film proved Claudette could sparkle under any conditions and with the best of them - and she soon would be one of the best!!