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The daughter of a senator from South Dakota visits Manhattan for the first time, eager to see the sights of the big city. While there, she finds herself caught up in an affair with a married man, whose wife soon commits suicide. Complications ensue. Written by
One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. However, because of legal complications, this particular title was not included in the original television package and may have never been televised. See more »
'Two Kinds of Women' was directed by William de Mille (lower-case 'd'), the brother of Cecil De Mille (upper-case 'D') and the differing orthography is significant: Cecil De Mille made upper-case movies in a big way, whilst William de Mille made lower-case movies in a small way. 'Two Kinds of Women' is competent but not compelling. This drama dabbles rather shallowly in the haedonism of Prohibition-era America, with Miriam Hopkins checking into a posh Manhattan hotel and then sauntering into the speakeasy that operates openly right down the street.
I've never fancied Hopkins, though in one scene here she wears a spectacular pair of black leather gauntlet gloves. She plays Emma Krull (any relation to Felix Krull?), a sheltered young woman from Sioux Falls, South Dakota (speaking her dialogue in an odd accent with broadened vowels) who accompanies her Comstocking senator father (Irving Pichel, very good) to sinful New York City. She crosses paths with Phillips Holmes as a Connecticut playboy (speaking in a peculiar mid-Atlantic accent; what is it with these accents?). Now get this. Holmes's character has been a wastrel and a womaniser all his life, but as soon as he meets Hopkins he decides he wants to marry her and get a white picket fence. I thought this was the line he was telling her to get her into bed ... but no, he really wants to marry Miss Krull and raise some little krullers.
But while Phillips drinks a screwdriver, we learn his guilty secret. He once got drunk in New Haven and woke up married to Wynne Gibson. (Serves him right for being in New Haven.) Gibson has been bleeding him dry (I'll have a dry Gibson, to go with that Phillips screwdriver) ever since. Now he wants a divorce, but he won't let her shake him down for a settlement. Holmes offers to sell his sapphire studs, so I guess he must be desperate. The neurasthenic Phillips Holmes is a performer whom I consistently dislike, but here he's lumbered with some unfortunate dialogue. He tells Gibson she has an icebox for a heart, then in the next scene he tells Hopkins that Gibson has a cash register for a heart. Which is it, buddy: an icebox or a cash register?
Along the way, we get some *really* bad rear-projection shots of Manhattan. At the climax, when one character falls out a penthouse window, it's more obvious than it needs to be that the plummeting body is a dummy. More positively, one scene between Hopkins and Holmes takes place at a gymkhana, and de Mille stages this with actual equestrians riding past, instead of stock footage.
One sequence impressed me very much. In the speakeasy, the camera pans along the hands of the customers at the bar, concealing their faces and bodies. Using only hand gestures and voice-overs, de Mille swiftly conveys several different dramas unfolding in this ginmill. Less effective is a party scene in which a mulatta songstress warbles jazz while the guests' body movements keep time with the music ... walking in tempo, drinking in tempo, but none of them actually dancing. Elsewhere, de Mille gives the actors (or allows them to use) some truly dire blocking, as if they were in a stage play rather than a movie. And why do so many doors in this movie have chequerwork panelling?
There are some excellent performances here. James Crane, previously unknown to me, is impressive as a desperate crook. Josephine Dunn is good in a comedy-relief role that turns out to be crucial to the plot. Stanley Fields (whom I usually dislike) and the very underrated Edwin Maxwell are good too. I was especially impressed with Robert Emmett O'Connor as Tim Gohagen, a mysterious party goer who seems to have contacts in high places: when the penthouse party gets raided, one of the detectives looks right at O'Connor and pretends not to see him. In all, I'll rate this movie 6 out of 10. I wish that William de Mille were better known, but there's no question that his brother Cecil was the better director.
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