|Index||9 reviews in total|
I really liked this movie. I thought it was an interesting study of human nature. You never know what someone is thinking or who will betray you no matter how well you think you know them. As for the comment about the performances being "wooden" you have to think about the time in which it was made. They were just coming out of silent films where they acted on a different level than with "talkies". It was a relatively new era in film. I thought that Kay Francis was lovely in this and that she was a truly beautiful woman. I don't know a great deal about her personal life but as for her movies I have become a dedicated fan. I'm in no way a film expert or aficionado but I know what I like and can move past certain elements to see the nuances of the story and characters. I don't think this was rubbish at all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I happened to see this and three other Kay Francis films recently when
they were shown on TCM. And, surprisingly, all four films were about
adultery and three of them had Kay playing a horrid skank! So, when I
saw her appear on the screen, I just KNEW she was no good!!! This sort
of type-casting must have been what killed Ms. Francis' career--that
and the more restrictive and less sleazy style of films that were
mandated by the new Production Code in 1934.
In this film at least, Kay does not play an obvious adultress. In fact, she isn't a major player in the first half of the film--which was by far the best portion of this movie. Kay Johnson plays a rich woman who marries her chauffeur (Charles Bickford). Her father disowns her because of this and the first portion is all about this nice couple struggling to barely get by.
Unfortunately, after five years of marriage and struggle, they agree to move into a wonderful ranch owned by Kay Francis and her husband (Lewis Stone). This is because although the marriage of Bickford and Johnson seemed loving and good, Ms. Francis began making overtures towards Bickford and he eventually gets him to leave his family. It was interesting to see how a seemingly decent man could make a series of bad choices that made the affair seem almost inevitable, though this also undid so much of the rest of the film--and this was irritating to me. I really wish the film hadn't gone this direction or that the basic selfishness of Bickford had been more apparent sooner--I'd invested a lot in the family and this disruption just didn't ring true. If Bickford really was the nice guy with integrity we'd come to like and respect, then why this change?!
FYI--Late in the film, look for a young and easy to miss Ray Milland as a guest at the party. It's obvious this is early in his career and it's just a bit part. Also, keep an eye on Zasu Pitts in the film--she's hilarious as the most glum and depressing supporting character I have seen in years!!
The plot of this picture may have been fresh back when Grandma was a
girl. Come to think of it, when the picture was made, in 1930, Grandma WAS
a girl. But it wouldn't be surprising if HER grandmother had come across
It's the one about the rich girl who gives up everything to marry for love - marriage to a poor but independent, honest and reliable man who has nothing but disdain for his wife's glamorous cousin, one of the idle rich who wed a much older man for his money. Unable to escape her wiles, unable to get ahead in the world despite his strong character and earnest efforts, he leaves wife and children to join the sorceress in an aimless pursuit of pleasure here and abroad - until he comes to his senses, returns home and asks his wife's forgiveness.
Have I given away the plot? Then I won't tell you whether she takes him back.
There are fine performances by Kay Francis, Charles Bickford and Kay Johnson, and a typical featherbrained role for ZaSu Pitts that is out of place in this picture.
It is always helpful, from the standpoint of entertainment, for a story to offer a few surprises, something original that will keep the viewer wondering how things will turn out. That is precisely the kind of help this story needs.
I just reviewed "The Show-Off" which has a similar - Irish vs. WASP
thing going. In Passion Flower it is a bit more subtle, but Kay Francis
is still most definitely the other - liberal, louche, a free-thinker.
In reading the other reviews, I note the historical value mentioned about the depression. This movie scores an 8 for me because of the priceless line about the battle of the sexes.
And of course it is Zazu delivering it - I think someone should gather her speaking roles in all her bit parts and string 'em together, end-to-end.
As I recall (I saw the move several years ago, but believe I watched this scene several times, I was so wowed by it), Zazu is mopping the floor and chatting "men trouble" with Kay Johnson. "I don't know about men," says Zazu. "They can be handy during the day and entertaining at night, but that's about it. I don't know about men." HANDY DURING THE DAY and ENTERTAINTING AT NIGHT? Now don't that just sum up the plight of 21st century manhood? And Zazu figured it out in 1930! Evewryone should watch this movie for that one scene. It is one of the best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I may be a nerd about history, but I have always wondered just how long
it took for the jazz age of the '20's to wind down, and for the reality
of the oncoming depression to settle in on the minds of the average
American. A lot of the movies dated as of the year 1930 that I have
seen on TCM have plots and situations that look as though the
depression hasn't started yet. In some cases it seems like it's still
the 1920's! And I am not talking musicals, either. In this movie,
released December 6, 1930, the plot involves the depression, in the
fact that Charles Bickford decides to accept Kay Francis' offer to work
on her ranch because he has lost his job.
Meanwhile, Kay Johnson (the wife) and her landlady played by Zasu Pitts seem to be just waking up to it all as they discuss the state of the economy. Kay says how it has been "dreadful this year." And Zasu Pitts says, "Oh it's bad. I've been trying to collect rent and haven't had much luck." Later when Charles Bickford loses his job his boss tells him, "I may not have a job myself in a couple of weeks." So, perhaps in January 1930 no one noticed a depression yet, but by December 1930, everyone did. This is what I find interesting. Call me a nerd.
This is technically a precode, although you never see anything happen
that is precode, just some precode ideas.
I loved Charles Bickford and Kay Johnson in Dynamite, and I guess that's because there you had two people from different worlds thrown together while their feelings for one another slowly build. Here Bickford plays Dan Wallace, a chauffeur, who falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy man, Cassy Pringle (Kay Johnson). When the film opens they are already in love, so there goes the chance to see the chemistry build again. When Cassy's father finds out, he orders Dan out of his house, and Cassy goes with him, with them marrying the next day. Dan has no trade, so the entire family lives in a cheap attic apartment while Dan works as a stevedore and in five years only rises to assistant supervisor of the other stevedores. Meanwhile he and Cassy have had two children who have no place to play in their cramped apartment that has been their home for the entirety of their marriage. Then Dan loses his job at the beginning of the Great Depression. Cassy's cousin is Dulce (Kay Francis), who married a much older but wealthy man whom she does not love, played by Lewis Stone. Dan and family move to a farm that Dulce wanted to give to them five years before on their wedding day, but now Dan's pride is all gone and he accepts the gift for the sake of his family. Dan is a man feeling like a disappointment as a provider and needing a boost to his pride, Dulce is a woman who has plenty of money but no passion in her loveless marriage. Complications ensue. I'll let you watch and find out what happens.
Everybody does a splendid job in this film. Kay Francis is great as a spoiled brat who thinks she should get everything she wants without actually coming out and saying that. Charles Bickford effectively portrays a man who is torn and who feels like a disappointment to his family. He often acts because he feels he "owes" people, and in the end his actions just make everybody unhappy. He didn't want material charity, why would he think the women in his life would want emotional charity? Kay Johnson gives a very subtle portrayal as the rich girl just happy to give it all up and stand by the poor man she loves, come what may. Winter Hall plays Cassy's dad, and he doesn't have much time on screen, yet he is a perfect portrait of pre-Depression Calvinism - he believes that rich people are intrinsically better than working people, and looks down upon them. The Great Depression is about to teach them otherwise - for awhile. Zasu Pitts is the comic relief as first Dan and Cassy's landlady and then when they move to the farm, their housekeeper? That is a transition I could never figure out, but she is needed comic relief for what is almost completely a heavy melodrama.
Just some background, Charles Bickford hated this film, calling it "melodramatic claptrap" in his autobiography. He felt he had been somewhat baited and switched by MGM, starting with the interesting "Dynamite" and then being forced to make this film instead of being loaned out to RKO, where he was wanted to play the leading role in "Cimarron". Also, the director of this film, William de Mille, brother of the great Cecil B., did not like directing sound films and only did a couple more after this. Also, Kay Johnson had been and maybe still was infatuated with Kay Francis at the time this film was made. So if things seem a bit awkward between the players, and if the direction seems a bit stilted, there is probably good reason.
Still, it's a pretty good study in human nature, so I'd recommend it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Love is a rare thing. You throw it away, it may never come again." So
says Kay Francis to her favorite cousin (Kay Johnson), a sweet, rich
girl who has fallen in love with chauffeur Charles Bickford and plans
to marry him against the wishes of her obstinate father (Winter Hall)
who threatens to disown her. Bickford and Johnson marry, and move into
an apartment building owned by the frenetic Zasu Pitts who always has a
word of doom every time she stops into visit. Francis is married to the
older Lewis Stone who allows her to have affairs but steps in when they
get too intense. At first, Francis is her cousin's confidante, but as
the marriage between Bickford and Johnson begins to suffer, Bickford
confides to Francis whom he found at first to be pretentious and
snobby. In the meantime, Johnson struggles to raise their child (Dickie
Moore) while Bickford plays around with Francis. Eventually guilt takes
over the two, and Francis begs Johnson to forgive her even as she plans
to marry Bickford who has convinced Johnson to divorce him. But will a
final meeting between Bickford, Johnson and Moore bring him to his
senses about what he really wants? Not if Francis gets her way!
This pre-code drama shows its vixen (Francis) in a rather sympathetic light as the affair between her and Bickford doesn't simply happen out of nowhere and her devotion to her cousin brings on a reluctance to go forward with it. Of course, once she's involved, she's not willing to let go, and a confrontation between her and husband Stone (seen only briefly) makes her determination all the more to get Bickford down the aisle. Bickford, on his part, is obviously not content to become Francis's "fancy man", being much more independent and masculine than the stuffy members of Francis's social scene. Johnson never makes her plight turn her into a sob sister, being more intent on remaining strong for her son (an excellent Dickie Moore) and doing what she needs to do to survive. Of course, Pitts steals every scene she is in, whether talking about a spouse that ran off on her, a tenant who can't speak anymore because they are dead, or the little boy who lived in the building who was killed after being hit by a car. Only Pitts could deliver such tragic news and make the viewer laugh because of her dead-pan manner. This is one "Debbie Downer" type character that is actually amusing.
When MGM started casting for this movie, its own stars were on other assignments and hence Kay Frances was borrowed from Paramount studios to play the leading role. This movie is one for the ladies, a typical Kathleen Norris romantic novel scripted to fit into a typical Kay Frances movie. Dulce (Kay Frances) falls in love with Dan Wallace (Charles Bickford), the family chauffeur against her father's wishes. When Dan is about to divorce his wife (played by Kay Johnson), he will receive a letter form his wife and have a change of heart. Hit by the memories of his loving wife and family, he goes home for a happy ending. Dulce is heartbroken under several yards of mink. William De Mille directed this drama with Martin Flavin, Laurence Johnson and Edith Fitzgerald screenplay. Lewis Stone and Zasu Pitts are outstanding in supporting roles
Cecil's brother, William DeMille only directed one film after this one. After seeing Passion Flower, it's a wonder they let him do that one. Extremely old fashioned material made with no verve. With the exception of some lame Zasu Pitts comedy, all the performances are wooden and trite, even the usually interesting Bickford and Francis. The only moment of interest is a technical where Bickford and Francis have a discussion on a very windy hillside and the sound appears to be recorded on site. It would difficult with modern microphones, much less what they had in 1930. But it's not enough to make anyone want to sit through this rubbish.
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