Mississippi belle Isabelle and her hard-headed, quick-tempered Jersey fiancé Henry arrive at an Italian speakeasy in New York. They meet an amiable retired judge there, but Henry's back is up immediately anyway. Henry leaves as his car is parked illegally. Isabelle likes the opera, and it happens that her favourite singer, Di Ruvo, is a bar patron that evening. "Gus", as he prefers to be known, is very charming. Henry returns to find the pair dancing. A row ensues; Henry leaves. Isabelle accepts Gus's offer to retire to his apartment even though he warns her his intentions are "strictly dishonourable". But Henry has told Officer Mulligan that Isabelle has been "kidnapped by villains"... Written by
Although co-written by Preston Sturges this one seems to have a bit of the Lubitsch touch in it and it's quite odd considering it's a Laemmle era Universal film. Isabel (Sidney Fox) and Henry (George Meeker) are an engaged couple. Isabel is a Southerner, Henry hails from New Jersey. Besides the country mouse/city mouse differences between them, Henry is completely unlikeable and thinks the worst of everyone. Apparently he was nice to Isabel until the engagement ring went on and then he changed. When asked about it he tells her "well you didn't expect me to stay all sappy forever did you?" He tells Isabel to stop thinking and leave her happiness to him, is very disrespectful of her, and is always trying to pick a fight with someone.
They stop in for a drink at a speakeasy full of characters, and here is where the trouble starts. When Henry goes outside of the bar to deal with his illegally parked car, Isabel makes the acquaintance of the dashing opera singer Count Gus Di Ruvo (Paul Lukas), and it is lust at first sight. George returns, makes some insulting remarks and then demands to Isabel, she calls off the engagement, and Henry storms out. Isabel and the Count take the opportunity to go off to the Count's apartment upstairs. Incredulous that Isabel would ever do anything on her own, Henry enlists the help of the police to round up the scoundrels who must have kidnapped her.
Now Isabel knows the Count's intentions are "strictly dishonorable" - he's quite upfront about his lady's man status - yet she's considering sleeping with him. When the Count discovers Isabel is a virgin, his demeanor changes completely. Back in the days of chivalry, most guys - honorable ones - don't mind being a casual second but are queasy about being a casual "first". He tramps upstairs to sleep at the judge's apartment. The Count acts quite horrid to Isabel, and you can't tell if it is because he is awestruck or horrified because he has finally almost gotten involved with an actual virgin.
This leaves Isabel in quite a fix. She's already said she can't go back to Mississippi because of the gossip it would cause, Henry has gotten on her last nerve even if he should choose to return, and now the Count has run out on her. How will all of this work out? Watch and find out.
For some reason MGM loaned Lewis Stone out to Universal to play the part of a drunken judge who tries to prevent Isabel from taking a false step by staging all kinds of interruptions for the couple, and in the process he almost steals the show. An odd but amusing turn for an actor who ten years later will be known far and wide as the sober Judge Hardy of the Andy Hardy films. Sidney Toler, who later plays Charlie Chan, here plays an Irish cop who has no problem with the speakeasy that the cast is patronizing, and in fact seems pretty friendly with all concerned.
This film is a bit stagy and static, which is understandable given that it is based on a play, but it is worth sticking with it for the witty dialogue and the rather clever although partially expected denouement. A very worthy early talkie with a fine cast.
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