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Though the careers of Robert Montgomery, Joan Crawford, and her husband
at the time, Franchot Tone's respective careers were not hurt by films
like No More Ladies, this was the kind of stuff all three of these
players were looking to get out of.
There was a truism at MGM back in its heyday. For films where the men wear tuxedos you first get Robert Montgomery. If he turns it down get Franchot Tone. If it's bad enough for Tone to turn it down God help him, Robert Young is stuck with it. So knowing the pecking order and knowing the billing, you can guess who Crawford winds up with.
Robert Montgomery plays another of those irrepressible womanizing playboys who's sowed enough wild oats to qualify for a farm subsidy. He's decided to settle down with society girl Joan Crawford who has certain ideas about infidelity and how wrong it is. Montgomery behaves at first, but when he uses their perpetually inebriated friend Charlie Ruggles as an alibi that doesn't hold up, Crawford decides on some revenge with Franchot Tone.
No More Ladies is harmless enough and when Edna May Oliver as Joan's grandmother is on the screen, always entertaining. But it was the stuff that MGM was grinding out in its dream factory. It was a case of Montgomery and Tone look great in tuxedos so cast them as urban playboys.
Well, both of them did look great, Louis B. Mayer wasn't wrong about that.
This is a film that came between two of Joan Crawford's best work in
the movies, while still employed by MGM, "Grand Hotel" and "The Women".
This is a film seldom seen these days. Thanks to TCM we had the
opportunity to watch it.
In fact, "No More Ladies", is an adaptation of a stage play. Even though George Cukor was not given credit for helping Edward Griffith with the direction, the adaptation can't circumvent the fact one is watching a theatrical play the way it unfolds on the screen. Donald Ogden Stewart, a talented screen writer is among the several people that collaborated with the script. The problem with the screen play is that if feels too artificial.
The film is worth a look because of the star turn by Edna May Oliver, who as Fanny, steals the picture from its principals. Although not a radiant beauty, Ms. Oliver makes her presence known from the start because of her wit and the lines she delivers with absolute conviction and flair. As Neil Doyle has commented in this page, Ms. Oliver is the best thing in the film.
Joan Crawford is Marcia, the rich girl in love with Sherry, a man who has an eye for beautiful women and who doesn't mind straying. Ms. Crawford, dressed by Adrian, shows she had a way to show herself at an advantage in front of the camera, who loved her features, but somehow she comes across as too remote and she doesn't seem to have too much chemistry with her co-star.
Robert Montgomery plays Sherry, the man who can't keep away from women, as is the case when he meets Theresa, an attractive girl about town who couldn't care less if he belongs to another. Mr. Montgomery was an actor well suited for this type of comedy. He is always effective in the characters he portrays in film.
The supporting cast is interesting. Gail Patrick is perfect as Theresa, a role she was always good at portraying. Franchot Tone and especially Charles Ruggles, are seen at their best. This film marked the debut of Joan Fontaine, billed as Joan Burfield, in a small part.
"No More Ladies" is a curiosity film made more enjoyable by the presence of Edna May Oliver.
The unoriginal plot, about a rich married couple dealing with problems of infidelity, is secondary here to the clever dialogue by Donald Ogden Stewart, who wrote the screenplay to The Philadelphia Story, and to a strong supporing cast. Joan Crawford is fine, but Robert Montgomery and Franchot Tone, fighting for Crawford's hand, wind up being nearly indistinguishable from each other, both in looks and in character. That leaves the supporting cast to rescue the film: Charles Ruggles has a fun bit as a slurring drunk and Arthur Treacher comes in at the end as a stuffy Brit who mumbles loudly and misuses American slang. Even Gail Patrick, who isn't normally given much to do in her man-stealing parts, is fine here. But the best is Edna May Oliver, playing the wise and witty matriarch--she steals every scene she's in and was the main reason I finished watching the movie.
In the past 24 hours, I watched two 1930s comedies -- MERRILY WE LIVE
and NO MORE LADIES.
IDMB users seemed to like MWL far more than I did. Many of the actors brought little to their roles in that film, and there's not a snappy bit of dialogue in the whole picture.
NML, on the other hand, is very witty, very well-acted, and quite entertaining. Yes, it might have been even better with someone other than Joan Crawford in the female lead, but Robert Montgomery is very strong and this was the most enjoyable work I'd ever seen Edna May Oliver deliver.
And I don't think, as one reviewer suggested, the Code impacted this movie very much -- in fact, it comes as being quite Pre-Code in nature. If you didn't know when it was made, one might easily guess it was pre-, not post-, code.
In short, not a classic, but quite snappy and entertaining and well worth watching.
Broadway must have had dozens of these drawing room comedies featuring
rich, well-dressed people speaking snappily to one another. I say "must
have" because Hollywood seems to have adapted all of them. "No More
Ladies" is yet another one, and for my money, it's pretty routine. Joan
Crawford is a rich girl in love with a cad, played by Robert
Montgomery. They marry and he's still a cad. In fact, instead of going
to their country house one weekend, he delays his trip and has a
dalliance with a woman named Therese. He admits this when he finally
shows up in the country. He has little choice when he learns that his
alibi, Charlie Ruggles, is actually at the country home. In
retaliation, Crawford invites an old beau and a couple of
ex-girlfriends to a huge party.
The dialogue is witty, the clothes are glamorous, the apartment and house are sumptuous, and the performances are very good. Montgomery was always perfect in these roles, and Crawford is attractive and spars with Montgomery well. Edna Mae Oliver is superb as always. Charles Ruggles plays a somewhat annoying drunk. Gail Patrick, who became Gail Patrick Jackson and produced "Perry Mason," having married Erle Stanley Gardner's agent, does very well as the pretty other woman.
This is one of those films where one asks, so why wasn't I crazy about it? The only reason is that there was a sameness about it and nothing really to differentiate it - including the cast - from all the other light, romantic comedies. It's no wonder that Robert Montgomery fought so hard to make "Night Must Fall." He was incredibly bored with these roles. It's understandable.
For sporadic moments of amusement "No More Ladies" is perfectly
satisfactory. It has the MGM lusciousness and gleam that the other
studios envied. Note the great looking costumes on Joan Crawford, Joan
Fontaine, and Gail Patrick wear. The sophistication is showed by the
ho-ho-ho jokes that are dropped by the likes of Crawford, Robert
Montgomery, Franchot Tone, and Edna Mae Oliver. This is the type of
film that has the hero with a name like "Sherry". People go to night
clubs, and to fancy restaurants, and take drives in Central Park at
night (it is, after all, the 1930s).
The film is a bore - it occasionally amuses because of the cast, but the dialog is brittle for the sake of brittle. It is Noel Coward's world but not the real wit he brought - Coward's best plays show a streak of harshness and mutual malevolence mixed with affection in his couples like Amanda and Elyot in "Private Lives". They also tend to be smarter than the characters here.
Also the characters are not all that amusing nowadays. Montgomery's cousin is Charlie Ruggles, who is constantly drunk. Ruggles is a favorite comedian to me, but here he was dull. Reginald Denny is around as a British version of Ralph Bellamy - an available alter-suitor to Montgomery for Crawford, and while Denny is elegant (in a skittish sort of way) he is not at all as amusing as Ralph Bellamy was in "His Girl Friday" or The Awful Truth".
After watching this film I stopped to consider the three leads. Montgomery was typecast for most of the 1930s (except for an occasional film like "The Big House") as a happy, amoral socialite. Nobody really played the upper-crust cad as well as he did, but he got bored by it, and fought for meatier parts - and after his brilliant Danny in "Night Must Fall" he got them. Crawford reveled in parts like the hard-working lower class girl fighting her way to happiness, but she did many "socialite" parts as well. Along came "The Women", and she played a villainous social climber. After that came the really hard-boiled darker parts of the 1940s and 1950s like "Mildred Pierce" and "A Woman's Face" and "Flamingo Road". Tone, in 1935, would start having roles like Bryam in "Mutiny On The Bounty" - like Montgomery he would play his wealthy cads, but he would be able to step into nastier, meatier roles like "The Phantom Lady" and "The Man On The Eiffel Tower". When one talks to their fans about the great work of these three actors, it is the films where they played characters with demons after them that are recalled. Few really recall a piece of meaningless cotton candy like "No More Ladies" regarding any of them.
MGM gloss is evident in every Joan Crawford close-up. As a matter of
fact, it's evident in the loving way Robert Montgomery and Franchot
Tone have also been given handsome close-ups. But the big scene-stealer
here is the lady who gets the best lines and the least flattering
close-ups: Edna May Oliver.
As a silver-haired dowager who enjoys putting stuffy society swells in their place with a tart remark, she's a welcome presence in a film with a plot so ordinary that it was hardly worth bothering about. You can sit through the whole film admiring the costumes Joan Crawford wears with her special flair for looking like a well-dressed mannequin, her marble face with those high cheekbones and huge eyes assuring us that she is the STAR of this tiresome nonsense, but your eyes will stray to Edna May whenever she takes hold of a scene. Thankfully, that's pretty often.
When a baby-talking house guest calls someone "Peggy Weggy" she turns to Oliver who is supposed to introduce herself as Crawford's aunt. Missing hardly a beat, Oliver quips: "Just call me Fanny Aunty".
Is this the same playwright who later wrote THE PHILADELPHIA STORY for Hepburn? The plot is simply boy loves girl, boy loses girl, boy loves girl in a nutshell. There are a few pleasant moments with Charlie Ruggles and Gail Patrick--and if you don't blink--Joan Fontaine makes a fleeting appearance with a pained expression on her face. Hardly an inspiring debut.
Typical of the kind of fluff that began harming careers back in the 1930s. You can afford to miss it, believe me.
You've seen it all before, folks--another tiresome romantic comedy, unredeemed by an accomplished cast and the trademark MGM gloss. Joan Crawford is especially wasted in the airy proceedings; her dramatic intensity has no outlet here, and she is forced to rely on her lesser skills as a sophisticated comedienne. This is Carole/Claudette/Irene territory, and, although Joan can give these ladies cards in spades when it comes to glamour, she lacks their lighter touch. I suspect two forces were at work here: the Production Code of 1933, which forced out earthy drama and bawdy comedy and pushed stars like Harlow and Crawford into fluff, and the "Norma" syndrome at MGM, which forced Crawford to take Norma's castoff parts. (No wonder Joan ended up "box-office poison" shortly after pictures like this alienated her fan base!) If you'd like to see Joan in comedies more suited to her persona, check out her splendidly bitchy Crystal in "The Women", or as the clueless Susan in "Susan and God".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of many sophisticated, romantic, comedic trifles to emerge from the 1930's, this one has its merits, but is also fairly unremarkable. Crawford plays a petulant socialite who's tired of the inconsistent attention that her beau Montgomery pays to her. He has a well-deserved reputation as a ladies' man and she wants to be his only lady. On a bit of a whim, they marry and settle in peaceably, for a few moments. Before long, he, almost instinctively from years of doing so, is romancing his pal Ruggles' lady friend Patrick and standing up Crawford who's staying at the country home. When she finds out about his indiscretion, she sets out to teach him a lesson by inviting Ruggles, Montgomery's former flame Osborne, Osborne's former husband Tone, her current husband Treacher and even Patrick down for the weekend! (There's also a sizable sheepdog along for the ride.) Crawford uses Tone to make Montgomery jealous while he endures the presence of the various characters she's included in the mix. Presiding over everyone is Crawford's snappy, sassy aunt Oliver who rarely let's an incident go by without some bit of commentary. Crawford looks terrific in this film, all eyes and mouth and with striking Adrien gowns (though she does sport one icky set of bangs during one sequence.) Her performance contains a range of emotions from anger to tears to sarcasm, but it's a bit heavy for something this fluffy. Montgomery is properly charming, but plays a pretty unsympathetic character. He's a wolf. Ruggles' tipsy role will appeal or repel an equal number of people depending on their taste. Tone is given little to do but look dashing in a tuxedo and provide a dot of conflict with Montgomery. Patrick gives a knowing and secure portrayal, offering some needed carnality in this era of the Hayes code, which restricted what could be said and shown. Osborne and Treacher are amusing as a newly married, yet mismatched, couple. Really, the best thing about the film is snarky, wizened Oliver, who milks her role for every drop of humor, wit and presence it is capable of providing. Also popping up for a few seconds is Fontaine as one of Montgomery's jilted girlfriends. It's an attractive film with art deco-style sets and fancy clothes, but there's nothing particularly striking or memorable about it. These types of stories have been done many times and often in a more entertaining fashion, though it's also not a bad film. Fans of the stars, especially of Oliver, should enjoy it more than others.
This film is not entirely dismal. Robert Montgomery is light and smooth as the playboy who nails anyone he wants, including the wives of his friends. The long list includes Gail Patrick, who plays Carole Lombard's nasty older high society sister in "My Man Godfrey". In this bizarro world film, she is a banjo playing bar fly. Anyway, before RM and Joan Crawford get married, he is told not to go into her room because she is in bed. Response: "Since when is a lady in bed an object of repugnance?" Joan runs around in sharp designer outfits, and restrains herself from chewing the scenery - much. In short, some snappy dialogue amid the heavy drinking and innuendos. To quote someone clever, "marriage is the death of hope and the birth of despair." BC
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