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Rod La Rocque,
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Park Avenue party-girl Mary (Norma Shearer) and staid English nobleman, Lord Phillip Rexford (Herbert Marshall) are married on a lark, they live happily in London. He must travel to America on business leaving her home alone. Lord Rexford's aunt invites Mary on a trip to the Riviera where she runs into an old flame, Tommie Treal (Robert Montgomery). Under the spell of the sea breezes and the Mediterranean moon (a semi-excuse for adultery to keep Queen Norma's image clean, as this was a post-Production Code film), Mary is the "innocent" victim of a romantic escapade that makes headlines as well as the scandal sheets. None of Mary's explanations can soothe Lord Phillip, his cold indifference drives Mary, who fights against it (a minor and feeble struggle at best), closer to Tommie. As the two lovers surrender to their ardor, Lord R. learns from his lawyer that Mary had been telling the truth, and he calls for her to join him in Cannes with a clean slate. O.K, but as Chief Sky Eagle told ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The length and styling of Norma Shearer's hair repeatedly changes from scene to scene and from one sequence to another. See more »
All I needed was that girl.
Listen, you can write her off your next year's income tax as an unavoidable loss.
She trembled! She fluttered!
I know. But she'll flutter just as well tomorrow.
Oh, no, she won't; not her. She's got 'conscience' written all over her face. At this moment, she is cooling off - like some beautiful volcano that has decided not to wipe out a lot of Italian villages.
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The story is a bit difficult to comprehend for some viewers, but the general gist of it is pretty racy. This was one of the final pre-Code motion pictures made in Hollywood, and the last one Norma Shearer made. Being the `Queen' of pre-Code film, it is not only enormously entertaining, but also significant for this reason.
Norma Shearer's Mary has lead a pretty racy life in New York, and, as her husband finds out later, `doesn't stop with a kiss.' However, when she meets Lord Rexford, she is willing to give up this carefree existence for a new life and family in England with him. She succeeds for five years, not philandering or smearing his family's name in any way. Then, however, Lord Rexford goes on a business trip to America. Knowing his wife's past in New York, he decides to play it safe, so to speak, and leave her at home. However, his delightfully decadent Aunt Hetty (played by theatrical legend Mrs. Patrick Campell, in one of her rare screen appearances), brings Mary to Cannes, where she runs into an old `friend' named Tommie (Robert Montgomery, Shearer's greatest on-screen co-star) whom she knew from her New York days. At a party late one night, Mary and Tommie seclude themselves and he takes advantage of her. Outraged at him, she storms back to her hotel, Tommie following. She locks herself in her room, and Tommie tries to gain entrance from his balcony across from hers. He misses, and crashes through a canopy. He winds up in the hospital. Feeling somewhat guilty about the fall, Mary visits him. He claims that her kiss will help him immensely, and seeing no harm in that, Mary grants him his wish. Unfortunately for her, though, a newspaper man snaps a picture at that exact moment, and although there was absolutely no romantic attachment on Mary's part whatsoever, the picture is placed on every newspaper cover imaginable. Her husband returns some time later, and is outraged himself at what his wife has done. After some contemplation on his part, he decides to get a divorce. What can Mary do, seeing as she really has done nothing? There is not proof whatsoever to give Lord Rexford his grounds. So Mary, in a risqué pre-Code manner, gives her husband his grounds by actually participating the acts the newspapers claimed she did. She has a fling with Tommie, and is about to tell her husband so he can go through with the divorce, when he decides he loves her after all. Uh oh! Now she must hide the tryst from her husband, which seems to be simple until Tommie decides he too loves Mary and is unwilling to give her up. With some help from Aunt Hetty and sister Sylvia, Mary is able to finally straighten out her situation and return to a happy life with her husband.
Riptide is blessed with a scintillating script, fine direction, and lovely sets. Apart from fantastic acting, however, the production is further blessed with two absolutely fantastic elements: Adrian's glorious costumes and Ray June's stellar camera work. Norma Shearer was never more lovely than in this picture, thanks to Adrian and June. The costumes are the finest she ever wears (with a possible exception being Marie Antoinette). The cinematography is perhaps the finest of the thirties, with beautiful contrast between skin tones, sets, and wardrobe. Every frame is set up as a wonderful painting, and it is perhaps the finest example of what they mean when they say `in glorious black and white.' The picture, much like real life, is never quite sure whether or not it is a comedy or a drama. The M-G-M/UA Home Video writers who wrote the summary on the back of the box tried to push the comedic elements; many modern review anthologies, such as Leonard Maltin and Videohound, tend to label it with terms like `solid drama' and `soaper.' Whether the film succeeds or not tends to rely on which you choose. The first time I watched it, I believed what I had read elsewhere and found it a strong drama. As such, I was a little bored with it, but Shearer was always worth watching. The second time I viewed it, I decided to take the comedic approach. And boy was I glad I did. As a comedy, this film is amazing. Its unbelievability seem not to matter, and one gets caught up in the romance and wit. Each time I watch it, I see more and more humor, and I truly believe that all involved saw this humor beneath the surface. The cast and crew must have filmed it thinking it was a comedy. Don't watch this as a dramatic soap opera, like The Divorcée or A Free Soul. Savor it for what it truly is: a gentle and satirical farce about sexual relationships and attraction. As such, you will be at an advantage.
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