Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Greer Garson. Between the mid 1920's through the mid-1950's, one of these women dominated MGM as their queen of glamour. Each of them also played the sophisticated jewel thief who schemes her way into society with the intention of robbing her hostess and guests of their valuables. Shearer's version came out in 1929, Crawford's 8 years later, and Garson's, called "The Law and the Lady", nearly 15 years after this version. In between, Crawford co-starred with Shearer in "The Women", and with Garson in "When Ladies Meet". this is the only time on screen that Crawford was paired with the suave William Powell who initially seems wasted in this film, but actually ends up having a major part, even if it is somewhat supporting.
The leading man is Robert Montgomery home Crawford had appeared within several films. She maneuvers her way into the home of wealthy duchess Jessie Ralph, a lively matron who has seen everything and probably done even more twice. she has secrets of her own, and as she grows to trust and like Crawford, Ralph (the intended victim of Crawford's latest jewelry theft) gets to see the truth about her pretentious family and finds that she has more in common with Crawford then she realized. Why Ralph was never nominated for an Academy Award for either this (or "San Francisco") is a great mystery to me. She is one of the most lovable dowager types on film, not afraid to play the occasional battle axe as she did opposite WC Fields in "The Bank Dick".
The first half of this film is a mixed bag dealing with Revelations of the people in Ralph's social circle and the mysteries surrounding Crawford's intentions and those who may or may not be in on her scheme. Frank Morgan is initially seen encountering Crawford in his hotel suite, she claiming she has made the mistake of believing that it was her room. That gives her access to his world and from there, she encounters such familiar faces as Nigel Bruce, Melville Cooper and Sara Haden. The film culminates with a delightful comic scene where the family skeletons are threatened to be revealed in an effort for Crawford to stay out of prison and it is the highlight of the film, delightfully funny and extremely well-written.
I wouldn't call this a great film, but it is typical glossy MGM fair with Crawford of course gorgeous, Montgomery and Powell dashing, and Morgan and Bruce delightfully pompous, droll and unknowingly goofy and foolish. it is everything that audiences in the 1930s would want from a Crawford film, but unfortunately this was at a downside in her MGM stay and did not get the box office that it deserved. Perhaps having three directors (of whom only
Richard Boleslawski got billing) is at fault, although you can definitely see the influence of Dorothy Arzner in Crawford's glamorous characterization. It all ends as a laugh fest to where the victims come to agree that they've never had a more delightful time in their life, and even with slow moments, the audience will have as much of a delightful time as Ralph and her messed up family did.