Her Private Affair (1929) Poster

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Recommended for the early talkie fan exclusively...
calvinnme18 November 2009
...and I didn't even like it. I watched this because Ann Harding had a starring role, and I had never seen a performance of hers from this early in her career. However, if you are coming to this film expecting the Ann Harding of "Double Harness" be prepared to be disappointed. This film is better than some early talkies in the fact that the players move and speak naturally. It is worse than many others because there is little depth in the performances - they could all be cut out of cardboard as far as motivation goes. Compare this film to "The Dance of Life" from the same year - 1929 - and see what I'm talking about. This is the time-honored tale of the penitent wife who has strayed, with Ann as the wife, Vera Kessler. However, the man with whom she has strayed is portrayed as such an outlandishly capitalistic gigolo it's hard to believe he would have bothered to put down his adding machine long enough to do the deed for which he is blackmailing numerous women. Then there is the gigolo's roommate who seems to be doing his best Renfield imitation minus the compulsive consumption of insects, supposedly from being shell-shocked during World War I. Why the gigolo keeps this insane fellow around is not really explained. Vera decides to pay the gigolo the blackmail money he demands, not because she fears her husband would leave her, but because she doesn't want to hurt him. However, when they meet, an argument takes place and she winds up shooting and killing the man in self defense. She runs away and avoids detection, but now she has two sins on her conscience - her infidelity and the fact that an innocent person has been arrested for the killing she committed. My assessment - this film is worth watching for its historical value only.
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A Cheap Blackmailer
bkoganbing17 November 2009
Her Private Affair which was the second film of Ann Harding's career was taken from a flop Broadway play The Right To Kill which had a sad run of only 16 performances in 1926. But with the advent of sound even flop plays found a market as the movies looked for dialog laden subject matter to film. I have to say this about Her Private Affair and particularly Ann Harding. Though like all the early talkies overacted, it's considerably less so than some of the items put up for Academy Awards. It also did not use title cards as many early sound films did, a carryover from silent days. Sad to say it's a dull drama about a wife who becomes the victim because of some indiscreet letters to a cheap blackmailer played by John Loder. When Loder winds up shot to death, he's not terribly mourned, it's generally agreed he was a lowlife. Still the authorities do have their diligent duty to perform. Her Private Affair though interesting in spots is not anything to stay up nights or wake up early to see, unless you are an Ann Harding fan.
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In its context, it's not that bad...nor that good.
MartinHafer22 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Like almost all of Ann Harding's Pre-Code films, she plays a woman who is NOT especially virtuous or has a past (i.e., a skank). I always found it odd that she was repeatedly cast this way, as she looked sweet and refined--not having that vampish or sexy quality such a character should have. The film begins with Harding getting a phone call from a blackmailer. You have no idea WHAT she's done, but it's obvious she'd bothered by this call and soon goes to her husband to ask for money. A bit later, you see the blackmailer and his weak assistant. He treats this helper like dirt and the man threatens to kill the blackmailer. Only minutes later, Harding visits the blackmailer and the two struggle with a a gun--and it goes off. Harding dashes away--worried that she might get caught and that the man might survive! What occurs next you'll just have to see for yourself. As for this film, it's very talky--something that is common in many of the early talking pictures. Instead of looking like a movie, it plays more like a play--a very, very cramped play. What I mean by this is that the film is mostly set-bound and the actors generally stay in the middle of the screen huddled near each other. This is not accidental, as early sound technology was pretty archaic and the actors needed to stand close to the microphones--much closer than they would in the 1930s. Also, like a play, there isn't much in the way of incidental music--mostly because, once again, they hadn't perfected this either. Believe it or not, in films from 1929 (give or take a year or so), the music you do hear often was played by an orchestra just next to the set--just off-camera! Adding the music later was a process still in the future. As a result of all these factors, the film comes off rather poorly--with little energy or excitement. I think if the film had been made just a year or two later, it would have been a lot better. However, I'll give the film a 5 simply because compared to other 1929 films, it's not that bad and is reasonably entertaining.
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Ann Shines Like a Beacon!!
kidboots31 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Pathe was formed in 1914 and throughout the silents was known mainly for it's serials and action features but with the coming of sound and the shakeups within the industry felt it needed a new image. In one fell swoop it grabbed an assortment of cosmopolitan leading ladies including Constance Bennett, Helen Twelvetrees and Ann Harding. Ann scored a big success with "Paris Bound" and while "Her Private Affair" wasn't as good - it came early enough in the talkie cycle to fool the public into thinking they were getting a peek into upper class living. Arnold Hartmann (Lawford Davidson) is a professional blackmailer who is being kept in the lap of luxury by the many worried women he has had affairs with. Even though Vera Kessler (Ann Harding) has not taken "the final degradation" she has written him some indiscreet letters and he is awaiting her and another financial reward. He is in for a shock as she wants those letters and will not take no for an answer. There is a struggle, a shot is fired and... Yes the movie is static and talkie - just the way a lot of movies were back in 1929 but Ann stands out like a beacon, not only with her beauty but also her quite natural acting ability. Her husband is played by her real life husband Harry Bannister. She also insisted he star with her in "Girl of the Golden West" (1930) but he then started "directing" the director and so he starred no more. In this movie it is very easy to see he just isn't star material as he is as wooden as everybody else (everyone except Ann). Pathe may have felt they had a husband and wife team (like the Lunts) on their hands - but they were mistaken. The police think they have found the right man in Grimm (Elmer Ballard) an agitated friend of the murdered man (there is a thinly disguised reference to a homosexual relationship), Vera feels sure (as she knows) that he is really innocent and begs her friend, noted criminal lawyer Carl Wield (John Loder - who really improved his acting skills in later years) to defend him. The movie ends with Vera, tearfully confessing her crime, knowing that her husband will be there to support her, come what may. Despite its very noticeable stage bound origins the movie was a hit and Ann's image as the essence of sophistication was being set in stone, lapped up by a movie hungry public and sustaining Pathe's faith in her. Recommended for Ann.
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Entertaining movie, better than the reviews and votes here
chipe20 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I gave this a 7 out of 10 rating. It is not as bad as the user rating (4.5 now) and the user comments would imply. True, it is best seen for the radiant Ann Harding in the second film of her career. I found most of the dialog and the plot engaging. I was taken in by the old-fashioned filming of this 75-minute film. The ending was particularly nice and complex as, in a very short time, everything comes crashing down on her and is then satisfactorily resolved. Without giving much away, the early situation is this: Ann, in a troubled marriage, returns from a vacation, to start anew with her judge husband. During the vacation she had become infatuated with a scoundrel, but stopped short of an affair. Now he is blackmailing her over some letters she had written him. She meets him to pay him and recover the letters, but he demands sex from her in addition to money. A revolver happens to be nearby, and she kills him accidentally while holding him off. She escapes undetected but is worried she'll be apprehended and her husband embarrassed. Meanwhile an innocent man is being tried for the killing. As I said above, there is a tense, terse climax where everything is resolved. Definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately, the sound quality is very poor, so listen carefully. Incidentally, a better movie based on the same story (with some differences) is "Evelyn Prentice" (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
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For Early Talkie Fans Only
Michael_Elliott21 November 2009
Her Private Affair (1929) ** (out of 4) Based on a failed Broadway play, this early talkie features Ann Harding as the wife of a judge (Harry Bannister) who has an affair with a lawyer (John Loder) who then begins to blackmail her. She's willing to pay and goes to his house to do so but he forces himself on her so she kills him. An innocent man is eventually arrested and the woman must fight her conscience on what to do. It always amazes me when I watch these early talkies that so many were taken from plays that either bombed on stage or were forgotten about by the time sound films came into play. Perhaps their rights were cheap? Either way, this isn't the worst early talkie out there but I doubt very many, if any, will find any true charm or need to view this. I think the only groups this film could be recommended to are fans of Harding or those who want to see all the early films to use sound. There are many problems with this film but we'll start with the most obvious, which is the bad sound quality. It's funny but after the first five minutes the film was already starting to bore me but I kept myself going by looking for the items that were hiding the microphones that the actors were speaking into. In a lot of cases they were quite obvious. Back to the actual film, the story itself is rather bland and predictable as this type of moral tale was popular in countless silent movies. It's rather obvious how everything is going to play out, although I'll give the film some credit for throwing in a nice little twist at the end. As far as the performances go, they're all rather bland and that includes Harding. I had heard from a few people that they liked her here but I found her to be all over the place with some of the blame probably deserving to go to the director. There are moments where it appears she has no idea where to turn so she just fidgets on screen. Bannister comes off rather weak and too laid back for his role, which doesn't help things. The movie runs a brief 71-minutes but there are plenty of sluggish moments that make it hard to sit through. Those curious about the early sound techniques might want to give the film a look but others should stay clear.
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Enjoyable for all the wrong reasons!
JohnHowardReid10 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
By the humble standard of a 1929 talkie offering from a minor Hollywood studio (Pathé – big time in Europe all the time, and very successful in Hollywood in the 1920s), this film is reasonably watchable, despite its ludicrous plot, unintentionally risible dialogue, plodding direction (Paul L. Stein) and minimal production values. Yes, the movie has so many defects and makes so many gaffes, it's actually reasonably entertaining. The First Act's unintentionally ludicrous scenes are actually so fascinating, you wonder if the script, the acting and the direction could possibly get any worse. They do! A pity that the players seem to be unaware that they are speaking just a lot of rot. True, nearly everyone from Ann Harding down to the bit players, overacts, but they all seem so solemn and even serious! Ludicrous clichés like this should be played with constant twinkles in the eyes, but everyone here seems almost mummified from first to last. Available on an excellent Alpha DVD.
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