7 March 2004 | Pedro_H
Cinematic antique notable for on-screen talent rather than plot development.
A well-to-do London divorce lawyer thinks he is ruined because he has become - unwittingly - a litigant in one of his future cases.
Hard to start this review without giving a bit of a history lesson. This old stage chestnut seemed to tickle the pre-war Britain audience and bringing it to the screen - pretty much as-is - was seen as a sure-thing.
You also have to remember that in those days divorce, hotel rooms and gay (in the original sense of the word) women where seen as racy. Indeed getting a divorce was beyond many a pocket as you had to prove adultery (or some other fault) in a court of law. Hence the tiptoeing private detective!
Great to see the triumvirate of Lawrence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Merle Oberon about their craft. Especially in material that is more comedic than serious. All people worth learning about. Sadly the colour (nitrate) negative seems to have deteriorated (as it does!) and now has the look of a 8 mm home movie. While still watchable - in this form - some showings may revert to black and white.
Olivier was always best with some kind of humorous undercurrent. Here he is not yet at the top of his game - and was never any kind of Carry Grant when he was - but plays the confused lead with some gusto. Richardson remains an enigma - the "best Falstaff of all time" say some - but more personality than actor. He could only be variations on himself, although perfect in roles such as this: An upper-class gentleman's club bore. The mixed race Oberon (they always lit her face with strong light to disguise her Indian skin tint) actually has the nerve to twinkle and scene-steal. Hollywood soon took notice.
This isn't essential stuff unless you are a fan of the three principles or like British cinema-light. Olivier hadn't - at that time - totally mastered screen acting but was about to go in to his best work, which includes Wuthering Heights (which he was not true to the book - but very memorable) and Henry V (which is a breathtaking film).
This is a comedy of manners and maybe some of the comedy comes from the dated aspects of those manners.