I knew virtually nothing about this movie before I saw it. At one time I may have seen that Leonard Maltin thought highly of it but Leonard has thought highly of more than a few duds. However, this was anything but a yawner!! That I have always thought W. S. Van Dyke was unappreciated as a director may also be a factor in my opinion of the movie.
I found Penthouse to be thoroughly enjoyable. Although never a big Warner Baxter fan, he was very convincing as an ostracized `society lawyer'. Loy, who was directed by Van Dyke in three of her best pre-Nora movies, is what can only be described as a call girl. Loy as a call girl is not nearly as difficult to believe as the name of the character she plays, Gertie Waxted. Myrna never remotely looked like a Gertie Waxted, regardless of her occupation and any call girl with a name like Gertie Waxted would have changed it.
I would imagine this was released pre-code during 1933 because the innuendo between Baxter and Loy was anything but subtle especially the first night and morning after Loy spends in Baxter's apartment (in separate rooms). The exchange where Myrna tells Baxter she was disappointed she did not have to defend her honor the previous evening is classic. At the same time, one has the opinion she would not have put up much of a fight. The supporting cast of Butterworth, Clark, Nat Pendleton, one of my all-time favorites, and Gordon is excellent. Butterworth's deadpan `I hope this will teach Mr. Durant (Baxter) only to take murderers from the best families' line at the end of the movie is unforgettable.
The Plot Summary accurately describes the situation so there is no need to dwell on it here. The two aspects of the plot that carry the movie are Loy as a very believable call girl and Pendleton as a gangster who is devoted to Baxter for getting him off on the proverbial murder wrap. To most classic movie fans, Loy is Nora Charles, William Powell's wife or Milly Stephenson. Loy as a believable call girl is no easy feat. In post-code Manhattan Melodrama one had to read between the lines to see anything wrong with Myrna as Blackie's girl who moves over to William Powell. In Penthouse, Myrna as a call girl punches you in the face.
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