A film star and her young daughter stow away on a cross-country train to California. The compartment they invade belongs to a celebrated biology professor; romance blossoms. The star's manager turns up; complications ensue.
Leila Porter comes to dislike her husband James, a glue king who is always eating onions and looking sloppy. But after she divorces him and marries two-timing playboy Schuyler Van Sutphen the now-reformed James looks pretty good.
On New Year's Eve, Geraldine ('Jerry') Trent decides to break up with her boyfriend Jim Woodward, having finally grown tired of his dishonesty and his infidelities. Soon afterward, Geraldine meets and falls in love with novelist Anthony Blake. Blake knows that she has had a man in her past, but he is content as long as he never finds out who it was. All seems well until her sister Joan returns from a trip, and happily introduces Woodward as the new man in her life. Written by
Gloria Swanson's lively screen presence and engaging energy make "Indiscreet" worth seeing. The story setup has some good possibilities, but aside from Swanson it never really takes full advantage of them. Most of the supporting cast is only adequate, and the script overlooks some good opportunities to make for more compelling drama and wittier comedy.
The movie starts with Jerry (Swanson's character) getting rid of a sleazy boyfriend, finding a new man more worthy of her, and then having her ex-lover return as her sister's new beau. Her fear of the past being revealed, combined with her protective feelings for her sister, set up the kind of internal conflict that can make a movie character quite memorable. And Swanson is quite believable in the part, but the script and the rest of the cast give her little help. (An exception is Maude Eburne, who gets some good moments as Jerry's spirited aunt.)
Leo McCarey was a sure-handed director, especially with comedy. Here, although he creates some good moments, there are times when it is not hard to see that he is still developing his touch. That's nothing against McCarey, because in the late 1920s and early 1930s even the best directors were still in the process of adjusting to sound movies, and McCarey had already made some fine movies, with plenty more to come.
Her performance in this role shows that Swanson could have had a future in the sound era, but unfortunately she, like so many silent-era stars, was not served well by the studio system in the new era of film-making. Here, she is well above the level of most of the rest of the movie.
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