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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched "My Past" (1931) with Bebe Daniels, Lewis Stone, and Ben
Lyon. Also in the cast are Joan Blondell in her eighth film and Natalie
Moorhead. I really enjoyed this very, very Pre-Code film, but I must
admit that my wife found it unnerving and didn't like it. She felt she
would never have been able to trust Ben Lyon from his behavior in the
film. Well, I think that the film shows the Fitzgeraldian sense of
twenties rebellion with and against ideas of Victorian marriage very
well. It may not be what the viewer believes in at all, but it does a
good job of doing what it set out to do. Actually, Lewis Stone is a
step away from Fitzgeraldian because he portrays a much older man in
this film, more in line with Victorian morality (which wasn't
especially 'moral', and that's what Stone represents) rather than the
Ben Lyon is 'married' (in name only) to Natalie Moorhead in the film. She's definitely NOT 'married' in the sense of the vow on the certificate! She's been over in Paris having an affair with someone while he's been involved almost neurotically with business on this end. Then comes Bebe Daniels, an actress who's known Lewis Stone for seven years and who has been having a relationship (but evidently not a physical one) with him for all those years. Well, when Lyon becomes involved, eventually there is a consummation with Stone and Daniels. All kinds of 'at sea' problems ensue. In the end, Daniels and Lyon end up together, Moorhead off of the register and Stone creating the bridge that leads to the togetherness of the two.
I really liked this film. I think it shows the times quite well. It's edgy, and it's meant to be. It must have been something to talk about in its day. Blondell, by the way, is about as good looking in this film as she ever appeared in film! She's a knockout! Moorhead is good as always, but basically wasted in a role made too small. Daniels, the more I watch her, is simply amazing as an actress. She's not showy at all; very subtle, in fact; and a fine actress for it. I've watched Daniels at least three times in the past week or so, and she's taken scenes from others, sometimes leading actors, without even trying.
I enjoyed this one immensely - even if Margaret didn't...
"My Past" -- and in precode Hollywood, you had one -- was released in
1931 and starred Bebe Daniels, her husband, Ben Lyon, Lewis Stone, Joan
Blondell, and Natalie Moorhead.
Daniels plays an actress, Doree Macy, who is crazy in love with Robert Byrne (Lyon), a married man whose wife is away supposedly getting a divorce. Meanwhile, an older man, John Thornley (Stone) is in love with Doree also.
Blondell, who is Doree's friend Marion, warns her that these married guys are just out for a good time and their wives are never getting a divorce.
Robert's wife returns, and, as Marion warned, he returns to her. He does love Doree. She acts as if she understands, but she's devastated. She takes up with the gentlemanly Thornley, but her heart isn't in it. She's fond of him, but her heart is still with Robert.
Very precode -- scanty clothes, implied sex, the whole shebang. The acting is okay for the era. As sometimes is found in these very early '30s films, there are big pauses between sentences, probably because people still weren't sure how to talk in the movies. Blondell is a standout, but then, she always is. Even in a small role, she shines.
Lyon became an executive at 20th Century Fox, a job he did while still doing his popular radio show with Daniels in England, where the couple eventually moved. They were married for 41 years, until her death. Lyon is credited with discovering and naming Marilyn Monroe while he worked in casting at Fox.
This movie doesn't move all that quickly but it's short and worth seeing for the cast and the whole precode "aura."
Interesting movie for 1931 at best. better Hollywood productions were out the, Acting leaves a bit to be desire. The movie has a very slow and tedious start. One has to admit that the sound quality was pretty compare to others movies of that period. The film quality is also very good. I am not sure if it is because I saw it on Time Warner Classic (TMC) and they may have done some restoration of the original print. Either way the quality is very nice for a movie from that period. Bebe Daniels does her usual fast acting and speech delivery gig. But her acting is also as usual, very average for that era. Overall I will say that this movie is worth watching.
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