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John G. Adolfi
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Commercial artist Helen Bauer believes marriage kills romance. She lives with advertising writer Don Peterson. He convinces her to marry him. He later carries on with client Peggy Smith; Helen takes up with Don's competitor Nick Malvyn. In the end, the couple agree to give marriage another chance. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Well, well, imagine my surprise when I saw two people in a double bed. That's right - precode, no whitewash. Bette Davis and Gene Raymond star in "Ex-Lady," about talented illustrator Helen Bauer, a career girl with very definite ideas about marriage - she's against it. Don (Raymond) has a key to her apartment, but he finally talks her into marriage. After a wonderful Havana honeymoon, the two return to find his ad agency, at which she now works, is in shambles. The two seem to grow unhappier until they decide it's just not working. But while separated, he and Helen find that the emotions they thought they left behind in marriage are still very much present.
I wasn't as enthusiastic about "Ex-Lady" as some of the other posters. It's slow-moving and stagy. It's based on an unproduced play, and it's not hard to see why it wasn't produced. Still, it's fascinating - Davis is all of about 28, tiny and pretty, and her screen persona is as yet unset. The feminist premise is very interesting, as are all of the precode elements. Davis and Raymond display quite a bit of chemistry, and talk about not having your screen persona - Frank McHugh wanders around as if he's on another planet! There's also a rendition of a cut version of Wagner's "Dich, teure Halle" at a party.
Davis does fine in her role, but of course, this isn't the type of thing she would shine in once Warners caught on. Raymond has never impressed me much, but if Jeannette MacDonald was forced to marry him, apparently he impressed Louis B. Mayer.
All in all, "Ex-Lady" is worth seeing for early Davis and as a pre-code film, which makes some of the movie seem quite modern.
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