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Willie Leyland (Ronald Colman) returns to England to old girlfriend
Loy), but meets new girl (Loretta Young). The repartee between the
characters is delightful. My favourite scene is when Ronald Colman is
writing a letter to Myrna Loy to break off their relationship. He has
gotten a dog upon his return to England, and he asks for the dog's
while he's composing the letter.
The film is well done, and the charm of Ronald Colman and Loretta Young makes the story a "must see".
Ronald Colman plays a prodigal son. While he is NOT a bad guy, he is a
bit flighty and hasn't done a lot with his life other than travel the
world and have a jolly good time. Now that his latest venture in Africa
has failed, he's on his way home to England. His rich upper class
father plans on tossing him out on his ear, though thanks to Ronald's
winning style, he is reluctantly welcomed back with open arms.
At this point, there are two women in his life--showgirl Myrna Loy and rich girl Loretta Young (who is already engaged). How will all this work out and will Ronald wise up and act like a responsible adult--these are the main themes of this pleasant little film.
This isn't a great movie and certainly won't change your life, but it certainly is very entertaining and fun. Most of this is due to the always genial acting of Ronald Colman. Heck, in the heyday of his career in the 1930s, he could have played in REEFER MADNESS or some other dreck and still made it entertaining and likable due to his charming persona. His seemingly effortless style in this movie make it very easy to like him and it's easy to see why both Loretta Young and Myrna Loy are in love with him in the film! Plus, the writing is very witty and make this a nice romantic-comedy.
This film directed by George Fitzmaurice, who made so many excellent films, is well up to his excellent standard. It is crisp, witty, with some wonderful lines, and has the inimitable Ronald Colman in the romantic lead. Colman plays the irresistibly charming younger son of a wealthy English peer. He is financially irresponsible (spending, for instance, £15 of his last £20 in the world on a cute little terrier whom he names George), but open, wildly generous, contemptuous of lucre, irreverent in the politest possible way, and hopelessly sentimental. He is so dashing that all the women fall in love with him. His girlfriend is a star of the music halls, and hence in 1930 a denizen of the demi-monde, played with her typical svelte, narrow-eyed silkiness by the youthful Myrna Loy. Fitzmaurice was not a great user of closeups, and gals of that day had their faces half-hidden with those awful clinging hats anyway, so we do not get as good glimpses of the faces of the two heroines as we would like. The director seems more interested in the charming Colman, anyway. The romantic female lead is the youthful and fresh-faced Loretta Young, who had not yet become the proto-Julie Andrews we generally know her as, but was still a blushing girl exuding all the sweetness of a rose garden and laughing merrily and heartily the whole time. It is obvious that a character with her terrific sense of humour was needed to appreciate the snob-busting social anarchism of the refreshing aristocratic character played by Colman. The plot barely matters, as is so often the case with these light and amusing films. This is just such fun.
Ronald Coleman had been a star of the screen for several years when
talkies came in, and what a boost it was to his career. His Oxford
English accent is so enthralling I could listen to him recite the
farmer's almanac and not be bored.
Coleman plays Willie Hale, a 30ish playboy from a wealthy family who spends his time womanizing and gambling. Yet, he's a likable rogue - not only likable from the standpoint of the audience but by family and friends too. He has yet again gone broke due to his constant gambling and sells off his possessions in a foreign location to settle his debts and provide passage back home to England. When he gets there, he at first is met by a father who insists he'll kick him out - he's had it with Willie and his layabout ways. However, five minutes alone in a room with Willie and his charm, and Willie is not only forgiven by dad, dad has given him one hundred pounds to boot.
Willie then goes for a day's recreation with his sister and her friend, Dorothy Hope (Loretta Young). Dorothy is set to be engaged to the Grand Duke Paul that very night, mainly just because her dad wants royalty in the family, and there is nobody else special in her life. That changes after her day with Willie, and soon there is a scandal brewing as Dorothy refuses to go through with the marriage as planned.
Ronald Coleman is always a delight to watch in these early talking films he did for Sam Goldwyn where he is playing the confident adventurer or cad or both. He has a demeanor akin to Errol Flynn, but he is unable to display Flynn's physical agility due to a disabling wound he received during World War I. However, what he lacks in physical agility Coleman always made up in agility of soul. Loretta Young, only 17 when this picture was made, shows the beginning of her trademark sweet girl that can erupt into a ball of fire when the occasion calls for it. Myrna Loy plays Willie's girl from the past - Mary Crayle - a showgirl. Here Myrna is still playing a part similar to the exotic vamp parts she got stuck with so often over at Warner Brothers when she was a contract player from 1926 until shortly before this movie was made in 1930.
This is pretty much a light and breezy romantic comedy from start to finish. If you're in a mood for the kind of escapist entertainment that lightened the hearts of audiences during the Great Depression, this little film fits the bill.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Ronald Colman's Oscar winning performance in A Double Life, he plays
an actor who gets way too deep into his characters. It's pointed out
that when he's in a comedy he's just the life of the party and when in
a drama like Othello, we find out he becomes way too much like the
character he's playing. Watching The Devil To Pay I thought this must
have been the comedy they were talking about.
If Colman ever had a star vehicle in his career, that depended strictly on his British charm to carry the film, this was it. He plays the second son of a titled lord who is as irresponsible as they come. He goes bust in Kenya colony and has to auction his possessions to come back to the United Kingdom when we first meet him. He spends his last few dollars on a dog, touches dear old dad for some more money and charms it out of him, hooks up with old girl friend Myrna Loy and then dumps her when he meets Loretta Young. And Young he takes from the dullard she's planning to marry, Paul Cavanaugh.
When you come right down to it, Colman's a real cad in The Devil To Pay. But he's such a charming cad, he's positively irresistible. I think only Leslie Howard of all the other actors could have been capable enough of bringing off this part, maybe.
Though The Devil To Pay is strictly a star vehicle for Colman, it does have the added attraction of a couple of other movie legends, Young and Loy in their salad days. And I really did enjoy Frederick Kerr as Colman's Lord Blimp of a father.
For fans of Ronald Colman, The Devil To Pay is not to be missed.
Devil to Pay, The (1930)
** (out of 4)
An adventurer (Ronald Coleman) who can't do anything right in life gets involved with a woman (Loretta Young) who's about to be married to another man, which sets off various events. This film is pretty routine even for 1930 as we've seen this type of love triangle in various films. Coleman is very good in his role and his fast, energetic performance makes the film fly by. Young is equally good bring her natural charm and cuteness to her role. Myrna Loy, Frederick Kerr and David Torrence also deliver fine performances. The film runs a quick paced 72-minutes and this flies by but the screenplay could have done better for the performers.
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