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Veteran Vaudevillan Irene Franklin is the Life in THE WOMEN IN HIS LIFE
Character actor Otto Kruger (48 and looking a decade older, at least by contemporary standards) stars as a rich and successful womanizing criminal defense attorney. His latest affair is with a typical blonde pickup (Isabel Jewell) who claims her love is sincere but Kruger is indifferent and basically thinks of her as little more than a bedroom toy. Kruger is equally blasé about the guilt or innocence of his clients and knows most of them are guilty, including his latest, painted matron Irene Franklin, "the Tiger Woman" as the tabloids call her.
Young Irene Hervey begs for Kruger to take her father, a man falsely accused of murdering his promiscuous wife, as a client but Kruger cannot be bothered, however when he finds Hervey can be of some benefit in Franklin's case he promises to help her. After trying to renege on his word, Kruger is shocked to discover that Hervey's murdered stepmother is in fact is the old flame of his past, the woman he never got over and the root of his hardened heart. Devastated to learn of her death, Kruger goes on a bender that leaves him near death and unable to defend Hervey's father, who is ultimately sentenced to the electric chair. Sobering up, Kruger plots to trap the real killer but will there be enough time to stop the electrocution?
This is a fairly good little melodrama done with typical MGM polish even if it's clearly a minor picture for the studio. Kruger is quite superb for most of the film, utterly unsympathetic in the first half and a sudden, effective change of character later on with splendid work as a drunk with pneumonia. Unfortunately, the last reel is pretty ridiculous (if effectively tense) and smacks more of a lurid poverty row programmer than the classy MGM production it had been up until this point.
Una Merkel is second-billed presumably because she was the only MGM contractee in the film however her role is fairly minor although she does have some classic Una wisecracks and as always is an asset to any film. The movie offers a nice role for character-starlet Isabel Jewell in one of her more sympathetic parts. Ben Lyon, entering the downswing of his career, is good as Kruger's junior partner.
The movie is stolen by Irene Franklin as the plump and painted good-time "Tiger woman" on trial. I've never heard of or seen Franklin before, she apparently was a big vaudeville star in the early decades of the 20th century and here in 1933 looks years younger than her 57 years. She's sensational in her "Mary Boland meets Marjorie Rambeau" type of role and it's incredible that this film didn't launch her into a career as a much in-demand character actress in this era (she went on to many other films but in most of them appear to have played bits). It's regrettable even here her part is rather small as Franklin is most definitely the life in THE WOMEN IN HIS LIFE.
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