The Cardboard Lover (1928)

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A ditzy American girl visiting Monte Carlo is hired by a tennis champ to be his "cardboard lover"--to pretend to be in love with him so he can teach his two-timing fiancé a lesson and win ... See full summary »


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Cast overview:
Andrés de Segurola ...
The Baritone
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A ditzy American girl visiting Monte Carlo is hired by a tennis champ to be his "cardboard lover"--to pretend to be in love with him so he can teach his two-timing fiancé a lesson and win her back. What he doesn't realize is that the girl isn't pretending--she actually is in love with him, and she sets out to win him for herself. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Romance





Release Date:

2 September 1928 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Her Cardboard Lover  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Print held in the Library of Congress. See more »


Version of Her Cardboard Lover (1942) See more »

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User Reviews

The best of the cardboard lovers
30 August 2011 | by (Washington, DC) – See all my reviews

As you watch this film, you may find yourself thinking, "I've seen this before, haven't I?" And you'll be right.

If you're a follower of TCM you may have seen the 1942 movie, HER CARDBOARD LOVER. Despite the impressive lineup of Norma Shearer, Robert Taylor, and George Sanders, the results are more awkward than comedic, leaving a sense of disappointment that prompted HER CARDBOARD LOVER to become Shearer's last movie.

As I outline in my book, P.G. Wodehouse and Hollywood, the film was derived originally from a 1926 French stage play by Jacques Deval. The initial adaptation for English-speaking audiences failed in its try-out, and P.G. Wodehouse was brought in to quickly revamp the play. At the time, Wodehouse was best-known as a musical comedy librettist, who also adapted foreign theatrical farces — only in later years would he be remembered more as a novelist and short story writer.

After his work on Her Cardboard Lover, Wodehouse was so confident it would succeed that he bought out a one-third share for $10,000 — and was soon pocketing $2500 a week. Her Cardboard Lover opened on Broadway in March 1927, running 152 performances with Jeanne Eagels and Leslie Howard.

Such a popular property was instantly bought for the screen, although for contractual reasons only the Deval original, not the adaptation, was noted in the credits. In the movie, the gender base was switched; instead of two men fighting over a woman susceptible to the charms of each, it is two women dueling for a champion tennis player. Probably this was the reason for the title modification from Her Cardboard Lover to THE CARDBOARD LOVER.

In the male role is Nils Asther, a Dane who had arrived from Europe only a year before — where, by coincidence, he had just finished starring in an Austrian movie of a Wodehouse short story, DER GOLDENE SCHMETTERLING. And, by further coincidence, Asther would star in another film of a Wodehouse stage play, By Candlelight, in 1933, just before Asther's own career began a precipitous decline.

Marion Davies, as a flapper on tour in Monte Carlo, turns in a riotous performance that fully justifies her reputation as a skilled comedienne. Dutch-born Jetta Goudal is a "vamp," in one of her last movies. When Cecil DeMille accused her of delaying a production, she sued and won her case, earning a reputation as a pioneer of the rights of performers against producers. Yet the struggle also helped end her career.

With the coming of sound, studios were looking for dialog writers. Given Wodehouse's theatrical experience, and the success of THE CARDBOARD LOVER, he was hired by MGM at $2000 a week and headed to Hollywood. The salary seemed commensurate with his worth: by this time, 22 short and feature films had been based on Wodehouse stories or plays, and cinematic rights to his work had advanced from $1500 for a novel in 1918 to $15,000 a decade later.

At MGM, his luck would turn. Laboring over a musical for Davies, Rosalie, it was canceled. Wodehouse's adaptation of By Candlelight was sold to Universal. Although he was involved with scripting many other films over a year, ultimately he earned only two on-screen credits.

At the termination of Wodehouse's contract, he joked to a reporter that he had been generously paid for accomplishing little. The next day his so-called admission of guilt was a widely reprinted headline. His time in Hollywood would prompt Wodehouse to begin a series of satirical stories of the studio system, that he would continue writing almost until his death in 1975.

The most absurd outcome of Wodehouse's tenure at MGM was the 1932 sound remake of Her Cardboard Lover. Retitled THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER, it is among those films that TCM is not quite too embarrassed to show. The gender roles revert to the original pattern, with the single feminine lead opposite Buster Keaton as the cardboard lover, saving her from a cad played by Gilbert Roland. Jimmy Durante is added for further antics. Keaton was well aware that he was miscast, but he had to also star in a separate French language version that was produced simultaneously.

Meanwhile, in the 1928 British stage presentation of Her Cardboard Lover, the lead role opposite Leslie Howard had been taken by Tallulah Bankhead. A scene from the play, of Bankhead undressing while talking on the telephone, was made into five minute short film in 1929 — which in fact was the first sound version of Her Cardboard Lover.

In 1941, Bankhead returned to the role in a popular summer stock revival of the play in the United States. Recalling it owned the property, MGM decided to film it again, with Norma Shearer. And that returns us to the most widely-seen version.

Yes, you may have seen cardboard lovers before. This, however, is the best cardboard lover.

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