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What a surprising delight this film is. Constance Bennett plays a rich
wallflower who just can't get the guys in her set interested. She's
also has a crush on boozy and shallow David Manners. One night when he
is drunk he asks her to marry him and meet him on a boat to Europe the
next morning. Of course he sobers up, and she ends up going alone.
In Paris Bennett meets a charming and broke guy (Ben Lyon)whom she hires as her "gigolo" so that he can show her around and meet people. Lyon hits on the idea of making up stories about her "past" so that men will be interested. They get along great and their plan is wildly successful until a surprising event occurs.
Bennett is quite good underplaying her sympathetic role. Lyon is terrific as the cynical but honest guy. Manners is also good as the callous boozer. Cast also includes Nella Walker, Albert Conti, Astrid Allwyn, Don Alvarado, Blanche Frederici, Bruce Cabot, and Merna Kennedy.
The ending is quite a surprise.
Okay, the plot is sort of silly -- you have to accept that gorgeous
society girl Constance Bennett, in a succession of clinging gowns, has
difficulty attracting men. So much so that on a whirlwind trip to
Paris, she hires penniless American Ben Lyon as a gigolo, if only to
prove that she isn't a complete dud.
Bennett exudes her trademark seductive charm. But it's Lyon, as her romantic mentor, who bring the "Lady with a Past" to life. He gives a brash, breezy, effortless performance reminiscent of Melvyn Douglas at his best in the days of "Ninotchka" and "Theodora Goes Wild." Not many of Lyon's films, with the exception of "Hells Angels," have been seen in recent years. And I always had the idea that he was a stick-figure straight man.
It was entertaining to be proved wrong.
This is a charming, subtle little pre-code in which everything is
implied and little actually shown.
Constance Bennet is a good girl from a good New York family and no one finds her interesting. In Paris she finds Ben Lyon, an indigent American who bums a beer from her. She hires him as a gigolo and he shows her how to be fascinating to men, using frequent kicks to the shin to encourage her education.
Lyon is particularly good in his fast-talking role and Miss Bennet is at her most charming. The two have real chemistry together and Edward Griffith directs with a gracefully moving camera under the control of the under-rated Hal Mohr. All of these combine to produce a comedy that is knowing without being cynical.
... that premise being that Constance Bennett as Venice Muir cannot
attract a man at all. Constance isn't some plainly dressed and drably
made-up wallflower that physically transforms, which is the plot you'd
expect. From scene one she is the glamorous looking woman she usually
plays, yet we are to believe that because she wants to discuss the
books she's read that men would chew through wood to get out of being
in the same room with her? With her looks and bearing she should
reasonably expect to recite the dictionary and yet be followed by
suitors - men simply aren't that deep.
David Manners proposes marriage to Venice when drunk, slinks away when sober, and leaves Venice wondering what she'll have to do to change her luck with men. Her solution - hire someone (Ben Lyon) to be her "boyfriend" and tell tales about her lack of virtue and her exciting nature that in turn should attract some actual suitors. These things never work out as planned - I'll let you watch and see what happens.
In a recent biography of the Bennetts, the author implied that
Constance Bennett was in movies only for the money with which to lead a
luxurious lifestyle. However, her work in this film would make one
believe that she really could act.
In this film, the usually glamorous Bennett convinces you that she is a wallflower, despite looking just as attractive as ever. Perhaps it's the way she carries her body, or the inflection in her voice.
The film may have been fresh in its day, but now seems trite and contrived. Nevertheless, if you're a Constance Bennett fan, you'll enjoy this film.
Constance Bennett is miserable. Despite having money and being a pretty
lady, she is hardly noticed by men. Yet, at the same time, 'bad' women
attract men like flies. For instance, one woman was acquitted for
shooting her husband--and now men won't leave her alone! So, out of
desperation, she hires a guy down on his luck to pose as her lover and
create the impression she's a loose woman! He seems a bit worldly and
indicates he knows how to make her attractive by making her mysterious
and a bit trampy. The plan works pretty well--but, of course, by the
end of the film several complications have occurred.
The plot is pretty clever and is carried off pretty well due to good acting from Bennett and Ben Lyon. Not a great film, but nice entertainment and worth your time.
In order to find this film believable, you have to buy the premise that
Constance Bennett, one of the most beautiful and glamorous Hollywood
stars ever, is unattractive to men. Does her character, Venice Muir
(her parents honeymooned in Venice) wear glasses, frumpy clothes, have
dull hair? Uh, no, she looks like Constance Bennett, it's just that
she's playing an intelligent woman who likes to read. Meanwhile, the
woman who may have poisoned her husband gets all the attention at
One night, while roaring drunk, a man with whom Venice is in love, Donnie Wainwright (David Manners), proposes and wants her to sail with him to France to be married. The next day, he's sober. So Venice travels alone.
In Paris, she meets a man Buy (Ben Lyons) whom she hires as a gigolo to bring her to parties and get her into the right circles so that she can meet someone. He has the idea that if he creates a "past" for her, she will be more exciting to men.
This is a nice film, but I didn't believe it for a second. Venice has intelligence, money, glamor, beauty, and guys want to date a woman who might have killed her husband? If it had been another actress, someone like Anna Lee, Sylvia Sidney, good-looking but perhaps not a knockout, it would have been more realistic.
For Constance Bennett fans. She is always a joy, and the performances are good, particularly from Ben Lyons.
Audiences of 1932 must have been surprised to see la Bennett play an unassertive society girl who wants to be married, but who, despite her stunning looks and pots of money, is shunned by the bachelors. Although sister Joan would have been more believable in the role of Miss Unpopularity, the story gets interesting when our tongue-tied caterpillar goes to Paris and is transformed by fun loving Ben Lyon into a social butterfly with a half dozen suitors fluttering around her, including the shallow boy from back home. And now that she can pick and choose, who do you think she ends up with at the finale? No matter. This is a pleasant little film and it's fun to watch Bennett sip champagne cocktails and flirt with fortune hunters in one stunning costume after another. No wonder her fans loved her.
"Lady with a Past" is Constance Bennett as an unlikely bookish
wallflower who sails from New York City to Paris where she engineers a
fake sex scandal hoping it will make her the talk of the town by the
time she returns and thereby attract the attention of young men who
find her literary chatter a big bore. She also talks to herself and
pretends to be singing out loud when caught in the act.
Her co-conspirator in Paris is the golden voiced Ben Lyons whom she picks up at a sidewalk café after he tricks her into paying his food and drink tab. But her heart really belongs to David Manners, a handsome member of her social set who is looking for someone more exciting.
If this all seems terribly unexciting, it is. Then why watch? Miss Bennett, of course. They don't make 'em like that any more. In the pre-production publicity it was said that Miss Bennett was being fitted for 17 gowns to wear in the film. I didn't count, but she probably did.
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