29 May 2005 | theowinthrop
Joan and her two co-stars
There is a lot of criticism, mostly negative, on this board about this film, which I can't understand. I have never seen the original film version with Norma Shearer, but it appears not to be bowdlerized like this one. But bowdlerized or not, this is a very good film.
It has a first rate cast led by Crawford (who was capable of comedy but opted for dramatic intense roles like Mildred Pierce). As the role calls for her to be compromised by her actions (she has masqueraded as a socialite to be accepted by the jaded aristocrats in order to pull off a jewel robbery) the role is not a slap happy funny part like say Rosalind Russell's Hildy Johnson, but a tonier style of sophisticated comedy. As such it is perfectly fitted to Crawford's screen persona.
As for the jaded aristocrats: Frank Morgan may not do a British accent at all, but his fumbling is pretty good here - he is the richest man in England, and could give an intelligent talk on industrial output or tariffs, but cannot open up his heart to Crawford; Nigel Bruce is another nobleman, who has a randy set of eyes for pretty ladies, and cannot see his wife (Benita Hume) is far too close to her "cousin" (Ralph Forbes). The splendid Jessie Ralph is an aging dowager who befriends Crawford (it is her pearl necklace that Crawford is seeking to steal). She is a lively and likable old lady, and one with a scandalous past (as we eventually learn). But if none of the aristocrats are spotless in character (except possibly the boring Morgan), the other members of the gang are not wonderful. Melville Cooper (pretending to be Crawford's chauffeur) is constantly ready to whip out his handy knife and cut the throat of anyone he thinks is double crossing them.
But the most interesting thing about the casting were the two leading men: Robert Montgomery and William Powell. The two most sophisticated and suave leading men of the golden age of movies only appeared in this one film together. They share only four scenes, but it is remarkable about how smooth the scenes are - like a perfect set of volleyball games with no shots and counter shots missed by either party (and when Crawford joins them she is equally smooth in responding to both her leading men). She had made other films with Montgomery but there were no others after this one. As for Powell, this was there only film together. As such it should be seen for the bright chemistry between the three leads alone, but it is a good comedy on its own.