|Index||6 reviews in total|
In "The Unashamed" the Ogdens are a wealthy family that is very close and
loving. Jean falls in love with a crass fortune hunter named Harry Swift
who is obviously after her money. Her father and brother try everything to
dissuade her. To force the issue, Harry persuades Jean to spend the night
in a hotel with him (horrors!) When they fling this unheard of behavior in
the face of her father and brother, to induce them to consent to marriage,
things go badly. Jean's brother Dick shoots and kills Swift. However,
wants only to protect Jean's honor so he insists to his defense lawyer,
Trask, that Jean be kept out of it completely.
The latter half of the movie consists of Dick's trial, and Trask's problem in trying to save Dick from the electric chair while protecting his wishes not to tell the real story of what happened. Thus Trask is not allowed to use the "unwritten law" as a defense (that's the one that allows husbands to kills their wives and wives' lovers). In addition, Jean is extremely bitter toward her father and brother since they've ruined her happiness. So she's not about to cooperate in the defense. Until...
This picture is extremely melodramatic, in a style which seems rather alien to us today, and a lot of the acting and dialogue is too stagy for our taste. Nevertheless, for its time, it was quite well done. The issues of class, honor and gender that the film raises may seem quaint but there were very real to rich people of the 20's and 30's. Similarly, the courtroom scenes are quite well executed with a real attempt to observe appropriate legal proecdures. The ultimate twist ending is also quite effective and will remind you of a more recent (and classic) courtroom movie.
Helen Twelvetrees is a spoiled rich girl who falls for an obvious cad.
He wants her money. She wants him. Her father doesn't approve. His
hardworking father, Jean Hersholt, doesn't either.
Most of all, her brother doesn't approve. The brother is played by Robert Young. He gives an excellent performance that is not at all perky or cute. His character seems dazed but also driven.
Indeed, there is a strong hint of more than brotherly love in the feelings he shows for her. Notging like those in "Scraface," still shocking over seventy years later. But it's there.
The movie is very good and never gives in to sentimentality.
I like Twelvestrees. She was attractive and acted well. She ought not to have been shot from behind, which she is often in his movie. Her face, not her derrière, was her strong point.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This above average courtroom drama sinks under the weight of its Hollywood happy ending, which simply defies belief. The first hour of Unashamed is, however, a fine example of pre-Code film-making. Brash young Joan Ogden (Helen Twelvetrees) is in line for a $3,000,000 payday from her rich daddy (Robert Warwick), but she's in love with gold-digging Harry Swift (the delightfully named Monroe Owsley). Her brother Dick (Robert Young) disapproves, and after Joan and Harry spend a night of passion in a hotel, he shoots his sister's lover. Enter slick lawyer Trask (Lewis Stone), hired to save Dick from the electric chair. Unashamed raises fascinating questions of morality and social stratification, and it depicts the wealthy Ogdens as more than willing to perjure themselves from here to Sing Sing in order to avoid the oh so obvious truth, not to mention an all expenses paid vacation on Death Row. The final ten minutes prove that crime does pay, as long as you have the best lawyer in town on your side.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nobody suffered in movies like Helen Twelvetrees - those quivering
lips, her big eyes, always ready to brim over with tears. Even the
titles of her films tell all - "Bad Company", "A Woman of Experience",
"Broken Hearts", "Disgraced", "Unmarried" - even with "Young Bride",
you knew she wasn't going to be happy and starry eyed for long!!! On
the other hand who couldn't adore Helen, with her wistful and fragile
beauty, plus she was also a very fine actress.
The film starts with a wild society party, complete with an indoor swimming pool and a huge bubbling fountain. Joan Ogden (Helen Twelvetrees) is completely in love with Harry Swift (Monroe Owsley), a shady "businessman" - he is completely in love with her $3 million dollar inheritance. Dick (Robert Young) Joan's very affectionate brother (Gertrude Michael has the small and thankless role of Marjorie, his fiancée) is convinced that Harry is a cad and just not good enough for his little sister. Monroe Owsley plays his usual stock in trade - a slimy villain who is not above taking the heroine to the gutter. How could Helen fall for him - hasn't she seen any of his movies!!!!
Joan's father (Robert Warwick) threatens to disinherit her if she continues to see him, but she doesn't care. One day Mr. Ogden is visited by Heinrich Schmidt (Jean Hersholt), a Jewish delicatessan owner, who claims Harry Swift is really his son. He says Harry changed his name because he was ashamed of his heritage.
When Harry is warned off by Joan's father he persuades Joan to run away for a "naughty week-end". He hopes that Joan's dad will then instantly give his consent to the marriage to avoid a scandal. The father still refuses to give permission and then Dick comes in. He has been up all night looking for Joan - in the hospitals, in the morgue. In the scuffle Dick shoots Harry.
Dick goes on trial for his life but Helen refuses to help him, After all he did kill the man she loved. John Miljan is very good as the barn- storming district attorney. Things look pretty hopeless - Dick is insisting that it was an accident. Joan is needed to confess her part in this sordid story so Dick's lawyer can plead "the unwritten law". At last Joan has a change of heart and goes on the stand for a powerful finish. This was shocking stuff, but fans of Helen Twelvetrees knew what to expect.
I don't know what happened to her but she made her last film, "Unmarried" in 1939. She definitely deserved a longer film career.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Overall, a good offering from MGM, with above average script and a fast
pace, racing to a quite interesting and unexpected twist of an ending.
But having said that, the movie has some creepy undertones that set it apart even from other pre-Code films. Most obvious, right from the beginning, is the weirdness of Helen Twelvetrees, the beautiful star of Unashamed (her career unfortunately over by 1938), kissing everyone in sight in the first 10 minutes of the film. A lot. Her boyfriend; her brother; her father; on the lips; on the cheeks; did I say "a lot"? Robert Young, normally normal, is weirdly obsessive over his sister. They hug and hold and kiss a great deal, and it's unnerving a little, being brother and sister and all. I wonder if audiences in 1932 felt the same way. But he just wants to "protect" her, he says.
Fascinatingly, the pre-Code element of open pre-marital sex is not just one that goes along for the ride here; rather, publicly acknowledged pre-marital sex, and the shame that is supposed to be concomitant with it, are the CENTRAL drivers of the plot. We should be grateful that films like this were made before the Hayes Commission came to pass.
There are some other surprises and weird diversions along the way. The German father is quite graphic in his resentment over Robert Young's murder of his snotty and selfish son, looking forward to being present when Young burns on the electric chair. A jury member cannot hear the proceedings, and asks Lewis Stone to speak louder; weird - not sure of the reason this is in here.
And sadly, when Louise Beavers, playing the African-American housekeeper, takes the stand at the trial, we cringe as she is forced to misunderstand "perjury" to mean "polygamy", although I had to listen to the lines several times to understand what she was getting at. This is supposed to be funny.
Finally, pay close attention to Helen Twelvetrees' left arm, about 3 minutes into the movie, when she is standing with her boyfriend on what appears to be a dock or a pier. As she turns away from the camera and then back again, her left arm stretches out, and it hyper-extends by a shocking amount, bending backwards by a good 20 degrees. As my wife, a nurse, said, when I showed it to her, Yikes!
An excellent movie to spend 75 minutes watching and thinking about.
One of the Interesting Things about Pre-Code Films is, of course, the
Frankness and Non-Skirting way the Story and Dialog go about the
Business of such things as Pre-Marital or Promiscuous Sex. It's just
there, not Avoided like Post-Hays Movies. Here it is Actually the
Central Part of the Storyline as the "in love" Couple check in to a
The Next Morning, after Making Whoopee the Lovers use this as a Way to get Her Father to "force" Them to Marry (something the Dad did not want), because it is the Accepted Thing to do. But if that isn't Complicated Enough, Enter a "Loving" Brother who Despises His Sister's Cad Boyfriend and then there are Fireworks.
The Remainder of the Movie is set in a Courtroom where things get a bit Dicey about the Spicey Love Making and Crime. The Movie has a 1932 Mindset and looking at it Today might seem Difficult or a bit Strange with all the Talk about Unwritten Law and so forth, and the Ending may come Across as a Little more than Strange.
Overall it is Worth a Watch for the Dated Dialog, Social Mores, Incestual Overtones, and the Bizarre Conclusion.
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