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C. Aubrey Smith
Kay, a bored society girl from New York, takes a trip to Greece-where she meets, Terry, an archaeologist. Kay flirts with Terry and he falls for Kay. Kay heads back to New York and Terry follows her to propose marriage. Terry sees Kays lifestyle is uncomfortable. He decides to leave, but, Mrs. Gage (Kay's grandmother) encourages Terry to stay. They become engaged. Just before the wedding Kay and Terry have a huge quarrel. Will Terry be left at the altar? Written by
Talented writer (and later director) Joe Mankiewicz wrote a decent early screwball comedy script with I LIVE MY LIFE, one that in some ways anticipated the much better MY MAN GODFREY of a year later. It meanders a bit, is repetitious and ultimately tedious, but with Clark Gable and Myrna Loy it might have worked.
Joan Crawford didn't have the light touch or resourcefulness needed to make the contrived comedy reversals of this story come to life. The result is that a movie whose script suggests a frothy romp becomes a very strained love story with failed comic overtones. Brian Aherne is tall, handsome, gallant and completely believable as an academic trying to learn how to unwind, rather like Cary Grant in BRINGING UP BABY three years later. Unlike Grant, he hadn't the gifts of comic timing or of charm -- there is something cranky and grudging about him, and maybe this kept him from becoming a star despite his good looks.
But this was a Joan Crawford vehicle, it was tailored for her, and it was she who was expected to carry it. As usual, the broad, strong face is as striking as a Modigliani sculpture but less expressive. Adrian, the great MGM designer so closely associated with her, is largely responsible for providing the illusion of presence and magnetism which Crawford didn't actually have. In this picture he gives her one of her most extreme and frankly ludicrous costumes, and in upstaging her, it exposes the essential flaw in their professional relationship.
Adrian had wit as a designer and his costumes here are all amusing comments on Crawford's character, but they expose rather than enhance her. The worst example seems meant to be a literal suit of armor since Crawford wears it in a scene in which her defensive, self-conscious character realizes she loves Aherne but must give him up in order to save her father from financial reversals. It's rendered in what looks like silver lame, with gigantic panels that fit over each shoulder, open on the sides but completely obscuring her arms from the front -- an armless Athena ready for battle. Less awful but still attention-getting are a series of black suits and dresses which are cluttered with enormous starched white collars and bibs or exploding swags of stiff material suggesting stylized nun's habits.
In contrast, two simple costumes are far less theatrical but more effective in letting us examine Crawford: A backless, halter neck sailor suit is playful and sexy when she wears it without a bra in her first scene. And much later a starkly elegant white satin dressing gown proves to be more beautiful and glamorous than the two wedding gowns she also wears, the second of which uses tiers of orange blossoms to cover up damage her spoiled heiress has done to it. The two pared-down costumes at least allow us to observe the actress and woman for ourselves to decide what we think of her. Little was required of Crawford in this period and she gave very little in return. And we have to wonder if Adrian tried to hide this or was in fact the cause of it: Why should Crawford have learned to feel and act when her collars and sleeves upstaged her in every scene anyway?
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