Kay is a girl living in a small rural town whose life is just too dull and repetitious to bear. One night, she meets young, handsome, and rich Bob Dakin, who asks her for directions while ... See full summary »
Kay is a girl living in a small rural town whose life is just too dull and repetitious to bear. One night, she meets young, handsome, and rich Bob Dakin, who asks her for directions while drunk and then proceeds to take her out on a night on the town. Kay likes the stranger, and when the drunken Bob decides that they should get married, Kay hesitates little before consenting. The morning after the affair, Bob, once sober, regrets his mistake. His strict and upright parents, however, insist that the young couple pretend marriage for 6 months before divorcing, in order to avoid bad publicity. Bob resents Kay for standing in the way of him and his fiancée, Priscilla, but Kay still hopes that he'd have a change of heart. Written by
The Wonderful Janet Gaynor in a Excellent Cinderella Romance
Janet Gaynor is best remembered for being the star of three silent classics, SEVENTH HEAVEN, SUNRISE, and STREET ANGEL, for which the then 22-year-old actress won the first Best Actress Academy Award and became the last superstar of the silent era. She was wildly popular in the 1930's as well, right up to her self-imposed retirement in 1938. In the early 1930's she was in fact the most popular young actress on the screen. Alas, because most of her films were made by Fox and have had little circulation since initial release (with the very notable exception of the classic A STAR IS BORN), she tends to be overlooked among the thirties stars today. SMALL TOWN GIRL, however, is better known than most of her films mainly because the MGM film airs quite often on TCM.
SMALL TOWN GIRL is an excellent light romantic drama with an utterly endearing and empathic performance by Janet. She stars as a twenty-something girl who has become bored out of her mind by the daily routine of her life - working at her brother-in-law's "mom and pop" grocery, customers buying the same things every week, eating the same meals every specific day of the week, having to listen to mindless small talk of customers as well as the repetitive comments of friends and relatives. Perhaps worst of all is her utterly unromantic and unambitious semi-boyfriend James Stewart. Janet appears to be the only person in town who knows there's a better way of life out there but she's powerless to find it. When the kids of a nearby college and young football fans cause a slight traffic jam passing through town going to a game, Janet looks on with wistfulness at their carefree, fun, and promising lives. After almost being run down by handsome (make that gorgeous) Robert Taylor, he stops and they talk a bit. He asks is she knows a short cut to the tavern he's headed to and with his warm personality and obvious breeding has little difficulty persuading her to join him. They have a wonderful evening and Taylor gets quite plastered (apparently a frequent occurrence for him) and Janet herself imbibes in champagne for the first time but remains sober. Driving her home, Taylor impulsively decides to propose to her and drives to the justice of the peace where some of his friends were just married. Janet protests mildly but finds herself unable to turn away from this prince charming that dropped in her lap from out of nowhere and finally agrees to marry him.
Driving away after becoming man and wife, the ever intoxicated Taylor runs off the road in a slight crash in a ditch and falls asleep. The next morning, he sobers up and doesn't remember anything but learns he is now a married man. When he learns Janet wasn't drunk at the time they married he suspects her of being a fortune hunter, meanwhile she learns he was already engaged to socialite Binnie Barnes and he's the son of a wealthy man and is a promising young doctor. Taylor decides to avoid scandal they will live as man and wife in-name-only for six months and then divorce. He is quite cool now to Gaynor whom he sees as an opportunist and his hostile demeanor has Janet now disliking him as well. But as time passes Janet recaptures the attraction and affection she initially felt for him whereas he is still waiting for the day the marriage will end and he can openly see Binnie Barnes.
Janet Gaynor gives a wonderful performance in this movie, the viewer is completely with her at all stages. Her sincerity shines through every scene and shows you why 30's audiences loved her so much. She is very fine in the early scenes fully capturing small town discontentment as well as her impetuous first night with Taylor and she never makes a false move throughout the film. Robert Taylor is so dashing it's hard to imagine any woman who could resist his charms. He is excellent and like Janet, you can't help but being drawn to him even when he is unsympathetic because you know he is better than his actions. The supporting cast generally has insignificant roles but James Stewart (in one of his first films) is so credible as the bland boy next door it's a wonder he didn't end up typecast for good as the Ralph Bellamy of rural films, the perennial second placer. Elizabeth Patterson as Janet's mother and Lewis Stone as Robert's father do what they can with their small roles and it was fun to see a toddler on screen (Janet's sister Isabell Jewell's daughter) being a picky-eating little brat unlike most films of the era with perfectly mannered children. SMALL TOWN GIRL is a small gem in MGM's crown and most definitely worth seeing.
15 of 16 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?