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The Common Law according to The Films Of Joel McCrea casts Joel for the very first time in white tie and tails, costuming he would get quite used to as his career progressed. Fortunately for him he would never get typecast in them the way Franchot Tone was.
This was also one of four films McCrea would do with Constance Bennett, a number that would qualify them as a screen team of sorts. The Common Law is one of those escapist dramas that Depression Era audiences just loved. This certainly showed a lifestyle that they dare not even dream about.
Joel is a rich young man who has gone to Paris to sow a few wild oats and play at being a Bohemian artist. While there he meets up with Constance Bennett another expatriate American who is living as kept mistress to Lew Cody, a really smarmy Frenchman. But she quarrels with Cody and hires out to McCrea as an artist's model. Naturally the two of them click.
But Joel's got a society sister in Hedda Hopper who is scandalized by such goings on. She'll break up McCrea and Bennett and save the family name and honor as she conceives it is.
The Common Law refers of course to marriage without benefit of clergy or at least civil sanction. This PreCode film while not condemning common law relationships does say women are better protected with a marriage license. An attitude easily understood today.
Robert Williams who later made such a hit in Frank Capra's Platinum Blonde has a supporting role as an perpetually inebriated playboy friend of McCrea's. His performance in this film confirms what a tragic loss he was to the big screen.
The Common Law is far more modern than a few films of today are even, definitely worth a look.
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