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Madame Behave (1925)

Passed  -  Comedy | Romance
6.6
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A cross-dressing farce, adapted from "Madame Lucy" by Jean Arlette, in which to help a friend in a lawsuit, Jack Mitchell disguises himself as the mysterious "Madame Brown," a missing ... See full summary »

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Title: Madame Behave (1925)

Madame Behave (1925) on IMDb 6.6/10

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Cast

Credited cast:
Julian Eltinge ...
Jack Mitchell / 'Madame Behave'
Ann Pennington ...
Gwen Townley
Lionel Belmore ...
Seth Corwin
David James ...
Dick Corwin
Tom Wilson ...
Creosote
Jack Duffy ...
M.T. House
Stanhope Wheatcroft ...
Percy Fairweather
Evelyn Francisco ...
Laura Barnes
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Tiny Sandford ...
Policeman
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Storyline

A cross-dressing farce, adapted from "Madame Lucy" by Jean Arlette, in which to help a friend in a lawsuit, Jack Mitchell disguises himself as the mysterious "Madame Brown," a missing witness important to the case of the plaintiff. He attracts the romantic attention of two old roués and one hot Broadway showgirl. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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If You Don't Laugh Your Head Off Call a Doctor Quick!

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

Passed
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Also Known As:

Madame Lucy  »

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An incomplete print of this film is in the Library of Congress. See more »

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User Reviews

Hey, mister, your slip is showing
31 August 2002 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews



Julian Eltinge began his career as a female impersonator in boyhood, and made a living at it for a long time. His act appealed primarily to women, who were impressed by the fashionable frocks and gowns that Eltinge wore onstage and the grace and beauty of his female impersonations. (Some women asked him for his beauty secrets!) Eltinge went to considerable trouble for his female characterisations (such as shaving his fingers) but was, by all accounts, not effeminate in his own behaviour. Even so, male theatregoers generally disliked him.

Eltinge was well aware that audiences might question the motives of a male performer who voluntarily dressed as a woman. He typically starred in drawing-room comedies as a robust he-man who (for some implausible reason) reluctantly wears female disguise to achieve some short-term goal, but who is anxious to get out of skirts and back into trousers as soon as possible. A typical Eltinge bit of comedy went like this: briefly finding himself alone onstage in female disguise, he would yank off his wig and fling it onto a table, then he would light up a cigar and say something like "What a relief!" in his normal male voice ... just as the door opened and someone started to enter. Quickly, Eltinge would snatch his wig and put it on again, speaking in a female voice and resuming his she-identity just in time to avoid discovery, while trying to hide the lit cigar. Eltinge sometimes played biological females: in one marital farce, he played the bride, the groom AND the other woman!

"Madame Behave" stars Eltinge as handsome architect Jack Mitchell, who lives in a luxury flat with a male room-mate (hmm...) but who is nonetheless courting beautiful young Gwen Townley (Ann Pennington). Jack's rival for Gwen's affections is wealthy Percy Fairweather (played by Stanhope Wheatcroft). Jack's flatmate is Dick Morgan (David James), a wastrel who has squandered his inheritance. Dick and Jack are both broke: Dick doesn't have jack, and Jack doesn't have ... well, they're broke.

The elderly landlord is named M.T. House (ouch!). When he learns that Jack and Dick don't have the rent money, he vows to evict them. Meanwhile, M.T. House is suing Dick's uncle Seth Corwin, who injured him in a motor accident. The only witness was a mysterious young woman named Madam Brown, who can't be located. Whichever man she favours in her testimony will win the lawsuit. Corwin and House both hit on the same scheme: to find Madam Brown and propose marriage to her, figuring that a wife can't testify against her husband. (Sorry, lads: a wife can't be *compelled* to testify against her husband, but she can testify against him if she wants to.) Both men separately rush off to Madam Brown's last known address, intending to propose to her.

Jack, of course, decides to disguise himself as Madam Brown. Somehow he easily gets hold of an extensive female wardrobe in his size, plus wig and shoes and make-up ... even though he doesn't have any money. (Maybe Jack and Dick just had all these things handy in their bachelor flat. Hmmm...) Eltinge, wearing 1920s fashions, makes a surprisingly fetching woman in his Madam Brown disguise. For some implausible reason, Eltinge passes himself off as the lady witness and fends off marriage proposals from both men. Meanwhile, Jack is trying to promote the cash to buy an engagement ring so that he can ask Gwen to marry him. (Yes, Jack, she'll marry you in a second when she sees how pretty you look in that dress.)

All logic and plausibility flies out the window. The climax of the film features burly actor Tom Wilson in a dress, looking much less convincing than Eltinge. The performances are good. Lionel Belmore (an underrated actor who starred in Erich von Stroheim's 'Greed') is funny in a rare comedy role as uncle Seth. The landlord is played by Jack Duffy, a youngish actor who had a long career playing toothless old codgers. (Duffy was skilled with make-up and wore dentures offscreen, but took them out for his old-man roles.) The scenes between Duffy and 'Madam Brown' are uncanny: two young men are playing an old man and a beautiful woman, and they both look rather convincing!

In real life, Eltinge invested his money badly and ended up broke. In his later years, when he could no longer play attractive young women, he tried one last comeback in California, hoping to do a nightclub act dressed in some of his female finery. But the local ordinances prohibited men from wearing female clothing in public. Eltinge was forced to do his act in (male) evening attire, alongside a clothes rack of female costumes. He would exhibit each one in turn, describe the show in which he'd worn it, and do a brief scene in female character while remaining in male garb. The act was not a success.

"Madam Behave" is an amusing farce and a good record of a stage performer who was once very popular. (A Broadway theatre was named after Eltinge.) I'll rate this movie 6 out of 10 ... but it's no "Some Like it Hot".


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