I was intrigued by the opening credits of 'Beware of Widows': this comedy (not very funny) is based on a play by somebody named Owen Moore. There can't be very many people with that name, and I can only think of one: the prolific film actor who was also married to Mary Pickford. I was wholly unaware that he'd ever written anything, yet apparently the playwright and the actor are the same person. I can't vouch for the original play, but if this film adaptation is an example of Owen Moore's writing talents, he should have stuck with acting.
Laura La Plante, wearing precisely the same marcel hairstyle that she displayed in several other late-20s movies, stars as Joyce Bragdon, who is attracted to the handsome and popular physician John Waller ... and therefore she's envious of the attentions that he bestows upon his numerous female patients. Waller (Bryant Washburn) seems to have something of a speciality in female patients, although this film's intertitles aren't explicit enough to identify him as a gynaecologist or anything in that line.
Along comes an impatient patient whom the title cards identify as Mrs Paul Warren, a widow ... but if she's a widow, oughtn't she to have stopped using her husband's forename? The movie also establishes that Mrs Warren is something called 'a professional widow' but never precisely explains what this might be. Possibly the female equivalent of Chaplin's character in 'Monsieur Verdoux', who married rich old women in seriatim so that he could kill them and inherit their money. I know that the phrase "Mrs Warren's profession" is a euphemism, but this movie isn't very Shavian. The widow Warren swiftly convinces Dr Waller to propose marriage to her, while cleverly making it seem to be his own idea. The wedding is scheduled pronto. On a yacht in a marina. What's up, dock?
Of course, our Joyce -- who seems to possess the same strategic instincts as Lucy Ricardo -- decides to break up the wedding by the stupidest possible means ... at one point nearly getting herself shot out of a cannon. Whoever doubled Laura La Plante's stunts in this movie definitely earned her (or, in a couple of shots, HIS) hazard pay. Heinie Conklin, as captain of the yacht and officiator at the wedding, does a couple of good slow burns.
I was delighted to see the names of Tully Marshall and Walter Hiers in the opening credits of this movie ... but I was rather disappointed when I saw them in the movie itself. Marshall and Hiers were (separately) both excellent character actors, who have consistently pleased and impressed me in performances elsewhere. Hiers, an immensely heavy man who died shortly before his 40th birthday, gave a surprisingly wide (no pun intended) range of characterisations in spite of the girth that might have typecast him. It pains me to report that 'Beware of Widows' gives neither of these talented actors very much to do: they mostly hover at the sidelines, whilst La Plante mugs ridiculously, and Paulette Duval (as the alleged widow) snoots haughtily.
I've never been a real fan of La Plante: my favourite performance of hers was a low-key and self-effacing appearance she made, in the 1950s, as a contestant on Groucho Marx's 'You Bet Your Life'. Although La Plante's name in a cast list will never be incentive for me to watch any movie, I do tend to enjoy her performances in those of her films that I've seen. So, I was more than slightly annoyed that, in 'Beware of Widows', she seems to be firmly in Lucille Ball territory ... and I don't mean that as a compliment. Role Conklin has a much smaller heinie than Laura La Plante -- sorry, I mean Heinie Conklin has a much smaller role than Laura La Plante -- but I laughed at his performance more than hers in this sinker. I'll rate this movie 5 out of 10.
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