|Index||6 reviews in total|
Conrad Nagel and Robert Ames are friends who work in the same bank and
live in the same boarding house. Nagel dreams of being a lawyer and
invests his money; Ames has no ambition ... until Betty Compson arrives
as an immigrant from Sweden. The guys become rivals for Compson's
attention as she learns English. Nagel is too careful and she falls for
Ames and assumes he will marry her.
At the bank, Nagel (who is the head teller) is at Ames' window when someone rushes in to tell him he needs $10,000 immediately to save his stock portfolio. He grabs the money from Ames' cash drawer but can't replace it before a bank examiner discovers the loss.
Nagel struggles with guilt until the cops pick up Ames who holds a one-way ticket to Rio. Ames never planned to marry Compson. Nagel lets him take the wrap and marries Compson.
Five years later, Compson is bored in her marriage. She has a slight accent and has become a society party giver. Even her son (Dickie Moore) doesn't interest her much. She's about to leave Nagel when Ames shows up, escaped from prison. Compson is willing to run away with him, but he wants revenge on Nagel.
During the following argument, Ames tells her he never wanted to marry her. Nagel, meanwhile, has written a letter of confession. Coompson is still willing to run away until Ames shoves her aside and snarls, "I don't want you!" The cops arrive. Will justice be served? Compson is very good (as always), Nagel is very noble, and Ames is good at being snarky. Robert Emmett O'Connor is the cop, Bodil Rosing in the landlady, Marjorie Beebe has a bit as a flirting bank customer.
"Three Who Loved" could have been an interesting psychological melodrama in which basically good people do bad or foolish things, while selfish, self-centered individuals are colored gray, not black. But somewhere along the way someone decided that such complexity would be too much for moviegoers to handle. Thus, characterizations are inconsistent and simplistic, while the plot is filled with coincidences and melodramatic cliches (and it's made even worse by an atrocious, absurd ending). Betty Compson was a capable performer, but she's totally lost in the part of the foolish immigrant who exchanges love and security for thrills and good times. An ill-fitting blond wig and a Swedish accent straight out of the Beaver, Utah, School for Actors do not help matters any. Director George Archainbaud, a well-known name during the silent era, apparently slept throughout the production. With movies such as "Three Who Loved," it's no wonder that the careers of popular silent players Compson and Conrad Nagel floundered in the early 1930s.
Conrad Nagel, hardworking bank teller who is working his way through
law school loves Betty Compson. Betty Compson, a pretty lass fresh off
the boat from Scandanavia, feels not much for Conrad, who is a bit of a
stiff, but instead loves (and makes love to) Robert Ames, Nagel's best
friend, and another teller at the bank. Robert Ames appears to be one
of the THREE WHO LOVED, but mostly appears to love himself. Does shame
and destruction await this trio of flawed souls who get caught up in
yet another version of the eternal triangle?
This is a not bad (though typically early RKO stodgy) melodrama that betrays stage orgins. The leads are all folks who need a good smack upside the head, and the mechanics of the plot do a good job of delivering them. Only Robert Ames puts in a decent performance, though, as Nagel is insufferable, and Compson is saddled with an accent that comes and goes. Ames, on the other hand, portrays the role of the affable cad well, and does OK in the later part of the movie, when he has plenty of reasons to be embittered. The conclusion is a mess, because it appears to be a sop to censors, rather than truly believed by anyone in the movie.
Worth the time -- particularly because the running time is rather brief.
Betty Compson plays Helga, who comes over from scandinavia to marry John, who ends up ignoring and boring her, but embezzles his bank to provide for them, in the midst of what becomes an unhappy love triangle. The acting is very good, and like all early Archainbaud's, crisply directed. Everyone turns in emotionally vivid performances, and there is a lot more content here than anyone would expect. And Nick Musuraca makes it all look good.
New York bank teller Conrad Nagel (as John Hanson) is doing well enough
to send for Swedish sweetheart Betty Compson (as Helga Larson). They
plan to marry when Mr. Nagel can afford to buy a house. Until then, she
lives in the same boardinghouse. Because Nagel spends evenings studying
to become a lawyer, he arranges for co-worker Robert Ames (as Phil
Wilson) to take Ms. Compson out regularly, to have fun. She is bored
watching Nagel study his law books. For some reason, Nagel doesn't seem
to know his pal is interested in women. Or, maybe he sees Mr. Ames
admiring other women, but trusts his friend won't take advantage of
Compson. You won't be surprised when Ames and Compson hook up. Then
happenstance provides Nagel with a way to win her back. Five years
later, the love triangle spins to a resolution.
**** Three Who Loved (7/3/31) George Archainbaud ~ Conrad Nagel, Betty Compson, Robert Ames, Robert Emmett O'Connor
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
... because I count only one who shows the ability to love here, and
even he has a rather flaky moral compass.
John Hanson (Conrad Nagel) is head teller in a bank who is studying law and close to passing his bar exam. His fiancée Helga (Betty Compson) is just arriving from Scandanavia, and she's green in so many ways as she gets off the boat. The third main character is Phil Wilson (Robert Ames). Phil likes playing the horses and chasing the women. Both Phil and John are living in the same boarding house and are tellers at the same bank, and Helga is living there too until she and John can be married. Months pass, and Helga is getting really bored watching John study at night and listening to the clock tick. Likewise, Phil is an obvious kind of skirt chaser. Not many women buy his act when he claims he is serious. And here he has laid right before him an innocent - Helga - who doesn't know "what it's all about" and takes people at face value. John makes it easy - he unwisely tells Phil to take Helga out and show her a good time while he's studying.
Helga falls for Phil, Phil takes advantage of the situation to make her think it's mutually serious, and sleeps with her. When the two get home afterward, Helga spills the beans about their "love" and John warns Phil that the two had better be married on Monday or else. Now Phil has no intention of marrying what he considered to be a Dutch treat, so he doesn't show up for work on Monday, and tells Helga he's moving to their new apartment, when in fact he's beating it out of town. But Karma visits Phil - because the cops intercept him and tell him the bank examiners have found his books 10K short. Every action he's taken to get away from a shotgun marriage actually make him look guilty of taking the missing money. The fact that he was big on gambling doesn't help either.
John does overhear Phil explaining his leaving town - that he got involved with a "tramp" he didn't want to marry and so he was leaving. After Phil goes to prison, John seems to have everything he wants.He marries Helga, he gets the big law job, he builds a big house, and he loves the little son that is (probably) Phil's, though it is never clearly explained if this is the case - the timing does imply it though.
Meanwhile, five years later, Helga is still carrying a torch for a guy who never loved her and is cold to John, in good with a partying crowd to avoid spending nights alone with him. John knows well she doesn't love him, plus he's in a prison of his own - one of conscience. You see, John actually stole that money that Phil is in prison for stealing. Why? How does this end up? I'll let you watch and find out the rest. I will tell you that five years in the big house have not improved Phil's character any, and he's itching to get out and get even. Also remember this is the precode era and unjust outcomes were allowed in film at this time.
The three stars here, whose time in the talkies were short, gave wonderful performances. Nagel is downright poignant as a guy who makes a few wrong moves at the wrong time for what seem like all the right reasons. Betty Compson, who played several "wise broads" in the early talkies and in silent films too, really makes you believe she just got off the boat. Robert Ames, who died of alcohol poisoning shortly after making this film, is so good as a fellow completely devoid of redeeming characteristics here you'll likely want to hiss at the screen. I bet they did when this was first released!
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