6 February 2008 | bkoganbing
Witty And Bright
This first film version of the Rachel Crothers play finds Robert Montgomery as the irrepressible playboy who will do just about anything to win Myrna Loy back from the clutches of married publisher Frank Morgan. Even if that means bringing Morgan's wife Ann Harding into the picture. And When Ladies Meet, watch out.
A later version was done by MGM but with more of an emphasis on the mistress than the wife. Joan Crawford had Myrna Loy's role and Ann Harding's part was done by Greer Garson.
Robert Taylor played Montgomery's role and the difference between the two films is the quality of their performances. Taylor had developed a real gift for light comedy, but for Robert Montgomery this kind of part was what made his reputation.
Frank Morgan was far better than Herbert Marshall because he played the role as the two timing rat he was. You watch Marshall's performance and you'd think he was the wronged party. As for Morgan, no one loved him more than I in the role of the inept bumbler he usually played, but parts like in When Ladies Meet and also in Hallelujah, I'm a Bum do show him to good advantage in other kinds of roles.
It's hard to choose between Garson and Harding though. Both of them have the best part in the film and both make equally good use of it. Each are the best in their respective casts.
Eliminated from the second version is a great deadpan performance by Sterling Holloway as the allergy prone golf caddy who destroys Montgomery's game as he's playing with Harding.
The original play ran on Broadway for 191 performances in the 1932-1933 season and starred Walter Abel, Frieda Inescourt, Herbert Rawlinson and Selena Royle. Ironically all of these folks had substantial film careers, but could never be classified as any kind of box office.
When Ladies Meet is witty and bright and a great example of the sophisticated type comedy that's just not being done any more.