5 August 2009 | FANatic-10
Unconvincing, Dated Drama
This story boasts some impressive credentials, being written and directed by Edmond Goulding, the well-known director of "Grand Hotel", "The Razor's Edge" and "Nightmare Alley" and with a musical score by Jerome Kern (unfortunately, not a distinguished one) and cinematography by the great James Wong Howe (again, not one of his premier efforts). It concerns two couples, Ann Harding and Herbert Marshall, a psychiatrist and a medical doctor who have been courting for quite some time, and Louis Hayward and Maureen O'Sullivan, two wealthy young people: he, an alcoholic wastrel and she, a pathologically needy woman obsessed with her relationship with Hayward. When O'Sullivan attempts suicide over Hayward's neglect, Marshall tends to her and calls in Harding to attempt to help her. Harding goes about this, rather strangely, by attempting to cure Hayward's alcoholism so that he will hopefully be a better partner to O'Sullivan (no matter that her obsession with him is not the mark of a well-balanced individual).
After his rehabilitation, Hayward does indeed attempt to be better to O'Sullivan and marries her, but finds that his attachment to Harding has developed into love. Harding finds that she reciprocates his feelings also and the dilemma must be resolved. Sounds like an interesting, even juicy movie could have been made of all this, but I'm afraid not. Ann Harding had a blonde, patrician beauty that is lovely and her acting could be subtle, thoughtful and surprisingly modern. However, the one thing I have not seen her capable of in what I admit is my limited knowledge of her acting (3 performances) is physical passion. She and Marshall strike no sparks and seem to have no more than a companionable friendship, but neither does she give any indication that she burns with passion for Hayward, so the viewer is left with no investment in either relationship. O'Sullivan has a good scene or two, but her character is awfully inconsistent, swinging from noble to nutsy, without enough exploration by Goulding of what could account for her feelings, just neediness. The now jaw-dropping sexism of some of the attitudes expressed, as well as the simplistic look at the mechanics of psychiatry also work against the drama and make it quite dated.