|Index||3 reviews in total|
I missed the first five minutes of this film when I saw it on tv in the late 1980's. The interaction between Carroll and Brent make it a classic film of the 1930's. I have waited for years for it to come out on VHS, but to no avail. Reluctant love is truly a great theme and one that is well treated in this film with the two great matinee idols of the depression decade.
This is a highly entertaining, at times engrossing, film centering on a
beleaguered woman's determination to gain custody of her son in the
face of an almost universal feeling of revulsion over her alleged
responsibility for the murder of her husband.
English actress Madeleine Carroll delivers a convincing performance in a dramatic role of the kind that she was, unfortunately, given too few opportunities to exploit during her career. As Hope Ames she reveals a compelling sense of emotionalism that was never over-wrought and remained contained, but not blunted, by a cool, elegant exterior. Every thing about her had a sense of elegance and refinement that is so characteristic of the exquisitely beautiful English actress, from her angelic countenance to her flawless diction. Even in the highly fraught scenes where she tries to regain the love and trust of her estranged son never descend into rank sentimentality, but elicit a welling poignancy at the heart-felt expression of affection that only a mother could feel for her child.
George Brent plays Matt Logan, a hard-drinking assistant D.A. whose vulgarities and flamboyant excesses provide an effective counterpoise to the cool Mrs. Ames. It seems that Logan represented a sort of tribune of the people in his effort to prove Mrs. Ames guilt in the murder of her husband, his ultimate success having political implications. This secondary theme of class conflict was a favorite among depression era film makers, and the contemporary audience of this production must have got quite a chuckle when Mrs. Ames' snobbish uncle goes so far as to call Logan a communist.
The remainder of the cast is uniformly excellent. Arthur Treacher as Mrs. Ames' butler, Griggsby, adds a little levity with his humorous excesses even though you know that no one could be that big of a ham. On the other hand, Mrs. Ames' son, Bobbie, played by Scottie Becket, couldn't have been more convincing as the snarling, spoiled brat that only his mother could possibly love. Now on second thoughts, maybe that should have been the real case against Mrs. Ames.
I was left unsure why Arthus Roche's name appeared on the credits. The screenplay bears no resemblance to the novel, and I am driven to the conclusion that using the title of a well known book (and hence having to credit it's author) was thought to be a good way of getting an audience for a second rate low budget movie. Of course, the novel being set in a Broadway of extremely dubious morals wouldn't have gone down too well with the US censor, or with the Hollywood moguls who would would also not have been to keen on the portrayal in the novel of a gangster mixing freely with the Broadway bosses. The issue (seemingly well researched in the novel) of the hardware shop as a front for the supply of weapons to the gangs would have been a bit hard to swallow, but with all those plot changes, why not just write a new screenplay?
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