The most interesting thing about 'Is Divorce a Failure?' is that the leading lady was also the scenarist. In the silent-film era, Leah Baird had some very minor success as both an actress and a screenwriter, occasionally (as here) performing both duties for the same movie. She shows some slight talent in both capacities, and some interesting looks as an actress, without being especially compelling in either job.
Socialite Carol Lockwood (Leah Baird) has divorced her husband David, played by a rather stolid actor named Richard Tucker (not the opera singer of that name). Carol intends to marry somebody named Kelcey Barton (Walter McGrail), although anybody with a name like Kelcey Barton is plainly bad news. Carol's lawyer Wilkinson (Alec B Francis) contrives to send all three of them -- Carol, David and Kelcey -- on an ocean voyage so they can talk things over, although it's not clear what they're meant to discuss: Carol has already divorced David.
Somewhere in the deep Pacific, the ocean liner is wrecked. The hundreds of other passengers and crew are (of course) of no consequence; what matters is that Carol, David and Kelcey are all stranded on an island with the ship's steward Smith (played by Tom Santschi, who specialised in bully roles).
I had some problems with this notion. Santschi was a very brawny man, so I wondered why this movie's scenario made his character a steward rather than a stoker or a trimmer, in the tradition of Eugene O'Neill's 'Hairy Ape'.
Anyway, since there's no immediate expectation of rescue, and the sharks are salivating offstage left, Smith makes it clear that he wants the island's only woman -- Carol -- for himself. All three men fight over her, mostly because it seems there's nothing else to do.
SPOILERS COMING. At the climax of the film, the island's volcano erupts: the special effects in this sequence are actually quite good, and the eruption is well photographed and matted. It's no surprise that Carol eventually decides that her ex-husband David Lockwood is the best choice for her after all.
The volcanic climax of this film is somewhat exciting, but the argle-bargle leading up to it is dull. I found myself wondering if this movie's male protagonist David Lockwood was related to Don Lockwood, the silent-film star played by Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain". I was also annoyed that the passengers and crew of the ocean liner are dismissed so airily, as if the four castaways on the island are the only people who matter.
As leading lady of this film, Leah Baird is slightly pretty but not particularly interesting nor attractive as an actress. Since she's also the scenarist, I assume that this movie's title was her decision, therefore she deserves the blame for it. With a title like 'Is Divorce a Failure?', I expected this movie to be a comedy of manners, perhaps in Frederick Lonsdale territory. It's simply not a very good film, and it's certainly not much of a comedy. My rating: 5 out of 10.
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