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Joe E. Brown,
William Collier Jr.
... at least at first, the man in question being Ludwig Kranz (Warner Baxter). The film opens on the wedding day of Ludwig and Elinor (Catherine Dale Owen). If Elinor's sister Muriel (Hedda Hopper) were any happier, she'd fly out the window, because Ludwig is one of the wealthiest men in the world, and she figures she and her milquetoast husband will benefit financially from the new union almost as much as Elinor.
The two people with the flattest emotions on this day seem to be bride and groom. The bride is as such because she does not love Ludwig - she is marrying him only to satisfy her sister's wishes. Ludwig is very happy if you listen to the words coming out of his mouth, but he is stuffy beyond description, even delivering gifts to his new bride via servants. That night, after the guests have left and before Ludwig enters their bridal suite, Elinor realizes she cannot go through with it and runs out the door, leaving behind the jewelry Ludwig gave her, as well as her wedding ring. Ludwig looks in the mirror, realizes his ugliness has repelled her, and plans that night to leave London.
Let me say one thing here - I was quite confused by this talk of ugliness, because Ludwig is not horribly deformed or truly ugly at all. At worst he is nondescript looking, and I've seen much worse looking men with quite a flock of pining women about them. Now, back to the story. Ludwig fakes his own suicide, even going as far as leaving a suicide note on his private plane out of which he parachutes to a boat waiting below. Having transferred his money into the name of Pierre Villard, he assumes that identity and goes to a famous surgeon, played by Bela Lugosi, and asks him to make him unrecognizable and therefore handsome. A year later and numerous surgeries later, Ludwig has his wish - on the outside he is handsome, but on the inside he still wants revenge on the wife that humiliated him. He tracks her down to Paris where she seems to be living a life of luxury and respectability as the widow Kranz, presumably on the one million pound wedding gift he gave her. What kind of revenge does Ludwig have in mind? Is all as it seems with his "widow"? Watch and find out.
The main attraction here is Baxter's acting, which is excellent as always as he really does seem to be two people - the stuffy Kranz as well as the suave and confident Villard. Catherine Dale Owen's fate is typical of leading ladies of this early talkie period. She was in demand for a couple of years after the transition to sound just because her diction was perfect, but as studios managed to sift through new talent and find actresses that could both project personality and speak clearly, she was passed over for parts and was out of motion pictures completely by 1932. Her performance here shows the cause of her downfall as it is as flat as a pancake.
Also note the weird little Cinderella musical number at the picture's midpoint. As with many musical numbers in Fox films of the early 30's, it is irresistibly awful.
Recommended for those curious about some of the more obscure early talkies.
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