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The switchboard operator in an apartment building falls in love with a businessman who lives in the building, whom she has gotten to know only over the phone. When she discovers that the man's current girlfriend is actually part of a scheme to swindle him out of some mineral rights he owns, she devises a plot to save him and expose the con artists. 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. See more »
LADIES SHOULD LISTEN (Paramount, 1934), directed by Frank Tuttle, ranks one of the many "drawing room" comedies produced during the 1930s, and although not based on any current stage successes, it looks more like a filmed stage play. Not quite on a lavish scale as the more productive MGM comedy with Robert Montgomery or Norma Shearer, LADIES SHOULD LISTEN features the up-and-coming Cary Grant, several years before rising to super-star status, then showing his capability as a light comedian in spite of acting in a part that might have been best suited for popular Frenchman Maurice Chevalier, who, by then, has moved on and no longer part of the Paramount banner.
The story revolves around Julian De Lussac (Cary Grant), a Parisian man-about-town who, through no fault of his own, gets himself involved with three women at the same time, including one in particular, Anna Mirelle (Frances Drake), a switchboard operator who listens in on Julian's telephone conversations, who becomes his protector. Aside from Susie Flamberg (Nydia Westman), an comely bespectacled young lady who does her best to garner Julian's attention in spite of being engaged to Paul Vernet (Edward Everett Horton), matters become complicated when Marguerite Cintos (Rosita Moreno), who, along with her husband, Ramon (Rafael Corio), make attempts in having Julian as their next blackmailing victim.
The supporting cast consists of George Barbier as Susie's father, Joseph; Charles E. Arnt as Albert, the manservant; Charles Ray, a once popular leading man of the silent screen now appearing in minor roles, playing Henri, the building porter who loves operator gal Anna; with Henrietta Burnside and Joe North in smaller roles. Sad-eyed and dark-haired beauty Frances Drake, an up-and-coming Paramount starlet, works well as the nosy switchboard girl who gets herself involved in a playboy's escapades, while Nydia Westman, in her Una Merkel-type manner, provokes some solid laughs with her man-chasing performance. One scene finds her telephoning Julian (Grant), telling him some interesting news, "I'm in bed!"
LADIES SHOULD LISTEN became the second and final comedy to pair Grant and Horton of equal star status. (Horton appeared in future Grant comedies, including Columbia's HOLIDAY in 1938, and the madcap Warner Brothers comedy, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE in 1944). They had previously worked well together in the funnier KISS AND MAKE UP (1934), which consists faster pace, silly comedy climaxed by an amusing car chase. As for LADIES SHOULD LISTEN, it lacks the quicker pace KISS AND MAKE UP has, and gives the impression of being an early 1930s talkie since much of it takes takes place in Julian's boudoir. No song numbers are inserted as the earlier film, however, it does include familiar underscoring, "Falling in Love Again," a song introduced and immortalized by Marlene Dietrich in the German produced musical-drama, THE BLUE ANGEL (1930).
With the screenplay by Claude Binyon and Frank Butler, LADIES SHOULD LISTEN should have been more amusing, and with Ernst Lubitsch in the director's chair, who had worked wonders with material such as this, it would have been, especially with Cary Grant in the lead. What's equally surprising is that this comedy is relatively short, 62 minutes. Out of circulation in the television markets for quite some time now (having been presented on New York City's WPIX, Channel 11, prior to 1972) LADIES SHOULD LISTEN, might be something to consider if it should ever be resurrected on television again. "Operator, please connect me to Turner Classic Movies programming department." One final note, star searchers, look closely for future leading actress, Ann Sheridan, appearing briefly as a fellow switchboard operator named Blanche. (**)
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