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This is a rarely-seen but stylish light melodrama from Fox Studios
about a globetrotting romantic triangle. The title is derived,
appropriately enough, from a poem by sophisticated jazz-age poet Edna
St. Vincent Millay -- a poem that speaks of the transience (rather than
transcendence) of love.
In Paris, a beautiful young American ballet dancer is involved with an American architectural student (they appear to be sharing living quarters). When she discovers that he has a stateside wife, she hightails it to South America and pairs up with a U.S. engineer. A few years later, they are back in New York when the ex-lover appears out of the blue.
The plot is run-of-the mill and unconvincing, but it's the sophisticated pre-code attitude towards male-female relationships (not unlike "The Common Law") and the fascinating look at early 30s social mores that make the movie worthwhile. There are neat throw-away incidents and comic turns, some clever visual transitions and wonderful set design from co-director William Cameron Menzies. This is particularly true in a bizarre futuristic dance number which features sinewy soldiers in ancient-Egyptian-like gear abducting skimpily-clad dancing girls. There's also a rather jarring sequence set at the construction site of Boulder Dam which is almost ruined by some abysmal back projection.
Elissa Landi, showing off her long limbs, is ethereal as always but lends little depth to the pivotal role. Warner Baxter is his usual masculine self; but the acting honours go to the underrated Victor Jory as the caddish ex-lover, and Miriam Jordan as his sardonic high-society wife. Mischa Auer makes a welcome cameo appearance.
I love the sophisticated precodes, but this one's charm largely eludes
me. Vicki Meridith (Elissa Landi) is a student of the dance in Paris
who has a winter affair with an architect student (Victor Jory as
Randall Williams). However, spring is here and Randall breaks the news
to Vicki that he is married, and that their affair must end as he has
an arrangement with his wife that he can do what he likes in the
winter, but in the spring he must return to her side and live the high
society life of her choosing. Jarred and broken hearted Vicki takes a
dancing job in South America because she can't stand to see other
lovers in Paris in the spring after what has just happened to her.
Vicki does recover pretty quickly though, and the next time we see her she's involved with Philip Fletcher ( Warner Baxter), an engineer working on some major construction projects in South America. Vicki is getting ready to leave and go back to New York where better parts await. This is where we see one of the truly bizarre but typically inane early Fox musical numbers. Elissa is in some kind of ballet. The players appear to be in ancient Egyptian garb and Elissa is clutching what appears to be a stuffed animal that the other players are trying to take from her. The male dancers appear in rather absurd costumes with head garb that look something like that of the Statue of Liberty and loincloths that appear to be made of a pattern similar to the American flag. The audience applauds thunderously afterwards, but I found my reaction to be one of just gawking.
The plot comes to a head and to a halt five years later when Melissa, now a big star, is reunited with her old flame Philip Fletcher, apparently either a very patient man or a man who knows what he wants or both. The two are planning to take a cruise on Philip's yacht preceded by a night on the town when Randall William appears again, this time with promise of a divorce from his socialite wife and expecting to pick up where he left off. He seems to forget that where he left off was putting Melissa's heart in a blender. Oddly enough, the three go to dinner together, with Randall rightly assuming that Melissa is a flighty enough woman that he at least has a shot at getting her back in one night - she and Philip are to sail the next day. Philip assumes that Melissa may weaken but in the end she'll see what Randall really is and stay with him. Thrown into the mix unexpectedly is the appearance of Randall's society wife who has no desire to let Randall go. She says that as long as she allows Randall his little excursions from time to time he really is a pretty good husband and she wants to hold on to that.
The problem with this film is that Warner Baxter is largely wasted in this movie with all the attention going to Elissa Landi's character. She spends this pivotal evening annoyingly giddy and waffling back and forth between her two possible futures. Plus she talks incessantly without really saying anything. The interesting performances are given by Victor Jory as the smirking confident cad and Miriam Jordan as Cynthia, his rather stoic wife.
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