8 November 2005 | theowinthrop
Trying to be Noel Coward-like and falling on one's face.
For sporadic moments of amusement "No More Ladies" is perfectly satisfactory. It has the MGM lusciousness and gleam that the other studios envied. Note the great looking costumes on Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, and Gail Patrick wear. The sophistication is showed by the ho-ho-ho jokes that are dropped by the likes of Crawford, Robert Montgomery, Franchot Tone, and Edna Mae Oliver. This is the type of film that has the hero with a name like "Sherry". People go to night clubs, and to fancy restaurants, and take drives in Central Park at night (it is, after all, the 1930s).
The film is a bore - it occasionally amuses because of the cast, but the dialog is brittle for the sake of brittle. It is Noel Coward's world but not the real wit he brought - Coward's best plays show a streak of harshness and mutual malevolence mixed with affection in his couples like Amanda and Elyot in "Private Lives". They also tend to be smarter than the characters here.
Also the characters are not all that amusing nowadays. Montgomery's cousin is Charlie Ruggles, who is constantly drunk. Ruggles is a favorite comedian to me, but here he was dull. Reginald Denny is around as a British version of Ralph Bellamy - an available alter-suitor to Montgomery for Crawford, and while Denny is elegant (in a skittish sort of way) he is not at all as amusing as Ralph Bellamy was in "His Girl Friday" or The Awful Truth".
After watching this film I stopped to consider the three leads. Montgomery was typecast for most of the 1930s (except for an occasional film like "The Big House") as a happy, amoral socialite. Nobody really played the upper-crust cad as well as he did, but he got bored by it, and fought for meatier parts - and after his brilliant Danny in "Night Must Fall" he got them. Crawford reveled in parts like the hard-working lower class girl fighting her way to happiness, but she did many "socialite" parts as well. Along came "The Women", and she played a villainous social climber. After that came the really hard-boiled darker parts of the 1940s and 1950s like "Mildred Pierce" and "A Woman's Face" and "Flamingo Road". Tone, in 1935, would start having roles like Bryam in "Mutiny On The Bounty" - like Montgomery he would play his wealthy cads, but he would be able to step into nastier, meatier roles like "The Phantom Lady" and "The Man On The Eiffel Tower". When one talks to their fans about the great work of these three actors, it is the films where they played characters with demons after them that are recalled. Few really recall a piece of meaningless cotton candy like "No More Ladies" regarding any of them.