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Alfred E. Green,
Wealthy Cynthia is in love with not-so-wealthy Roger, who is married to Marcia. The threesome is terribly modern about the situation, and Marcia will gladly divorce Roger if Cynthia agrees to a financial settlement. But Cynthia's wealth is in jeopardy because her trust fund will expire if she is not married by a certain date. To satisfy that condition, Cynthia arranges to marry Hagon Derk, who is condemned to die for a crime he didn't commit. She pays him so he can provide for his little sister. But at the last minute, Derk is freed when the true criminal is discovered. Expecting to be a rich widow, Cynthia finds herself married to a man she doesn't know and doesn't want to. Written by
This film has the distinction of being the great Cecil B. DeMille's first "talkie," and it's just as well since there's nothing else that particularly stands out to make it a memorable production, with the exception of the dynamic Charles Bickford. Unlike its title, this movie ended up being anything but "Dynamite" as the box office at the time, and it's not too hard to see why even decades later. DeMille seemed to have lost his touch during the sound period with this genre, for this tale of the battle-of-the-sexes/bedroom farce fused with class distinction is rather run-of-the-mill. The schoolmarmish-looking Kay Johnson is improbably cast in the role of Cynthia Crothers, an insulated, spoiled, flightly rich girl who is faced with the dilemma her late grandfather's will presents of either marrying before her fast approaching 23rd birthday, or else losing her entire inheritance and being left penniless. This is a problem since the man she's in love with, the desirable and handsome but cash-strapped Roger Towne (Conrad Nagel), is already married, and unable to become divorced "in time" due to his gold-digging, foot-dragging wife, who will only let him go if Cynthia is willing to "pay" big bucks for him. An opportunity presents itself when Cynthia gets wind of a (wrongfully) convicted murderer, Buddy Derk (Charles Bickford), willing to "sell his body" for $10,000 to go for the care of his beloved kid sister. Cynthia takes up this offer and in a desperately-driven and practical yet cold-blooded scheme, marries the soon-to-be condemned man, it seemingly being the only solution to obtain the money from her inheritance to "buy" Roger and wed him as soon as she becomes a widow, but complications ensue when Buddy is discovered to be innocent and is released.
Despite Bickford's 3rd billing, he's the real star of the show, a riveting presence that just about steals every scene he's in. He's perfectly cast both in looks and persona as the gruff, grounded and no-frills Buddy, whose rough exterior shields a teddy bear underneath. Conrad Nagel is appropriate in his part, but that's about it as he's not really given much to do here, and his role could be played by any number of other similarly suavely handsome types. As for Kay Johnson, this is the 2nd and only film I've seen her in (after "Madame Satan"), and again she leaves me wondering how she managed to get those 2 starring roles under DeMille--while a capable performer, it's not of the magnitude to counter her lack of looks and magnetism, and her patrician looks and air, while quite suited to her role in "Madame Satan," is inappropriate in the part of pampered party girl Cynthia, whereas Julia Faye as Roger's wife Marcia, displayed the sort of sexiness and spunk that would've been more apt.
To be fair, aside from Bickford, this movie is not without some saving graces. The "fish-out-of-water" scenes involving a recently released Buddy in his strange new opulent surroundings and Cynthia living in the dreary mining town, are quite amusing in their reactions to worlds which they've never been before, and frankly, have no desire to be in. Keep an eye out for a young and virtually unrecognizable Joel McCrea in a small but noticeable part as Marcia's lover Franco.
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