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Showgirl Sally meets young playboy Leonard St. John; they fall in love and are secretly married. When Leonard's father discovers this he sets out to break them apart, and following a bitter row, Leonard kills himself, leaving Sally to pick up the pieces of her life. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
It may be difficult to get past the premise of "Madame Blanche": movies always require a suspension of belief to some degree, but I had a very hard time with this one. I can't swallow the idea that Irene Dunne would give up her career to marry Phillip Holmes' snivelling, substance-free, work-allergic wimp of a man, after knowing him for about 8 seconds. Did young people in the 30's really marry so quickly without getting to know their potential spouses?
Anyway, Holmes quickly justifies are suspicions. His father disinherits him, so angry is he that Holmes has married so far below his station. Holmes does nothing to make us feel any sympathy for him, but Irene Dunne loves him so! A real unappealingly weak character, he is.
The dialogue is so insipid and without drama in the first half of the film that I seriously wondered whether I had the will to see it through.
Happily, there is much improvement in the second half. Dunne's soldier-son, played by Douglas Walton, starts off as weak and selfish a person as his father (Holmes) was, but he does grow up and change nicely, and is somewhat appealing. Dunne is fabulous and convincing as an older woman - actually, impressively so - it is hard to recognize her as an attractive younger woman in her "old age" make-up!
Lionel Atwill is absolutely evil as Holmes' brutally heartless father. The best scene in the film actually occurs in the first half: look for the close-up, upper-bodies -only shot of Dunne and Holmes in what will be their final parting; the entire shot is beautifully and slightly and softly out of focus, and is quite effective and touching.
Overall, this is a mixed bag, but if you love early sound films just for their own sake, or are a fan of Irene Dunne, then you will appreciate this little soap opera.
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