"The Law and the Lady" is a delicious caper comedy. It's also a great spoof of upper class society and the rich. And it's a romance and love story to boot. The capers are in the form of scams and schemes to film-flam the rich. So, they are crimes. But, fair warning – it will be very tempting to not regard them as such in this film. In the end, justice triumphs – in a most unexpected, humorous, and satisfying way.
One knows he or she is in for a real treat from the very start. The film opens with a text that reads, "This story begins in London at the turn of the century (20th). If they had known what was ahead, they never would have turned it." What follows is one of the funniest, wittiest, and most clever plots ever put on film in such an endearing story. It's a wonderful satire and hilarious spoof of royalty and high society.
One normally doesn't think of Greer Garson in comedy. She acted in just a few light or comedy films. We know her mostly for some wonderful dramatic roles and movies. She had the theater persona of a dignified and proper, yet warm and caring woman. Yet her film persona fits perfectly for her role as Jane Hoskins, aka Lady Lovely, in this film. Her co-star, on the other hand, was an old hand at comedy, as well as drama. Michael Wilding is the perfect English gentleman and gadabout, Nigel Duxbury. He was born five minutes too late to be first in the family's royal line. He actually does double duty as his twin brother, the Baron of Duxbury, in the short film opening. Nigel is the witty disinherited man with a zest for life – just the right person to lead Jane astray.
It's all very innocent (well, except for the scam operations) and very funny. There are no slapstick, pratfalls or antics. Just a brilliant script with associated demeanor and behavior. I can't think of any other film that can outwit the dialog of "The Law and the Lady." The supporting cast all contribute to this superior comedy-caper-satire-romance. There are some lengthy hilarious scenarios in the film, but with little space left, I'll just share a few of the short quips.
Baroness, "But you'll get no character (reference, from me)." Jane, "I'm not interested in the character, baroness. I'm thinking of becoming a lady and for that no character is necessary."
Jane, "Mr. Duxbury, you are without question the most dishonest, the most immoral, the most unprincipled man I ever met in my life." Nigel, "That would sound more convincing if your hot little fist wasn't stuffed with money. But if it will make you any happier, we can always give it back – your half." Jane, "Let's not be too hasty, Mr. Duxbury. We can think more clearly when we've had a little wine."
Nigel, "You talk like Gladstone and look like Helen of Troy." Jane, "You look like a duke and act like the Artful Dodger."
Jane, "I shall find a man worth 10,000 ($1.2 million in 2015) a year and marry him." Nigel, "What about love?" Jane, "I have no objection to love as long as he still has the 10,000."
Jane, "This would be purely a working arrangement?" Nigel, "Oh, incredibly pure." Jane, "Then why the diamonds?" Nigel, "Because, without them you are Jane Hoskins, but with them you are Lady Lovely."
Jane, "You promised that our relationship was going to be incredibly pure." Nigel, "Yes, now it's purely incredible."
Tracy Collans (played by Hayden Rorke), "Hoskins, place me next to Lady Lovely at supper." Nigel, "That might be a bit of a problem, sir." Collans, "Solve it, Hoskins, and I'll make it worth your while." Nigel, "Bribery, sir?" Collans, "Yes." Nigel, "I just wanted to make sure."
Juan Dinas (played by Fernando Lamas), astride a horse, "Is she married?" Nigel, "A widow, sir. She was heartbroken by her husband's death – vowed to never look at another man." Juan, "Well, I do not want her to look at another man. I want her to look at Juan Miguel ... Dinas
– that's me." Nigel, "Well, I suggest you stay where you are, sir. Her ladyship could never resist an attractive horse."
Juan, "Do you like pigs, Lady Lovely?" Jane, "I've met so few."
Julia Wortin (played by Marjorie Main), "You oughta marry again, Jane." Jane, "You didn't." Julia, "At my age a good cook is more important than a husband."
Jane, "He offered me a hundred servants, a house of my own, and 8,000 pigs. He wants to marry me, Nigel."
Jane, "Nigel, I've been thinking. Couldn't you pinch the silver?" Nigel, "Oh, that's a very brilliant idea, indeed. I shall leave the house with one bag and four barrels?"
Julia, "They disappeared like beer at a policeman's picnic."
Jane, "You blaggard! It's all seeming crystal clear. All this time you planned every little scheme up your sleeve, and I'm to have no part of it. No part of it, eh? Well, at the risk of being accused of understatement, I'll tell you that you're an unmitigated, double- dealing, mealy-mouthed, underhanded scoundrel, and I should have known if from the first."
Juan, "You must love him." Jane, "Oh no. I hate him." Juan, "Jane, if ever I find a woman who can hate me so passionately, then I will know it is love."
There's more – much, much more throughout this film. It's a wonderful, funny, warmly endearing comedy. It's a film that the whole family can enjoy, although younger viewers may miss some of the sophisticated humor.