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Alec B. Francis
Moving tale of struggling young couple in 1920s Germany
Similar in tone and approach to Vidor's THE CROWD and Borzage's own BAD GIRL, this film looks at a struggling young couple in 1920s Germany. Douglass Montgomery and Margaret Sullavan are perfectly cast as the young couple, in love and in turmoil trying to make ends meet.
They marry because she is pregnant (a racy situation for just-pre code Hollywood). He is employed as a single man by a father who is looking to find a husband for his daughter and therefore tries to keep his marriage a secret. He is found out and sacked. The couple then go to live with his stepmother, who runs a sort of brothel for middle aged men seeking companionship. Both he and his wife are in the dark about this. He has a low paying job, made available by his stepmother's beau (and co-owner of the brothel), who constantly makes advances towards his wife.
In the end he is out of work again, the brothel broken up, and his wife gives birth. Here the story should end, perhaps with tragedy (the child's death, a suicide?) to stay within the Germanic heaviness of the plot - but Borzage provides a last minute happy ending that does not fit with the rest of the film.
Montgomery is very appealing and acts well, as does Sullavan. Alan Hale is memorable as Jachman, the brothel owner and Catherine Doucet makes the most of her role as the dotty stepmother.
A good little film worth seeing. Although its official timing here on IMDB is 91 minutes, the print I saw ran for 98.
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