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If you can tell yourself that you are seated in a Broadway theatre enjoying the first night of a George S Kaufman play, you will be delighted. The dialogue is wonderful especially if you like it a little bitchy and the actors put it over beautifully. Kay Francis is marvelous as usual but much credit goes to Verree Teasdale as Irene, Ms Francis' more than capable foil. By the way there are a couple of delightful scenes sans Ms. Francis especially one in which Ms Teasdale and Walter Connolly are "enjoying" an evening at home. Of course the political plot is rather ridiculous and should be ignored except as it moves the story along setting up the witty verbal contretemps. If you just like to "watch" movies, avoid this one. But if you love language and wit you won't be disappointed. And if I were trying to find a play for a community theatre, this sleeper would suit me fine.
A very dated but still amusing political comedy, "First Lady" showcases Kay
Francis's great comedic talent as the wife of a secretary of state destined,
in her view, for the White House once presided over by her grandpa. The
screen text as the film begins to roll alerts viewers to the "fact" that men
control politics but behind the scenes the ladies are not without influence.
Dated! But funny!
A comedy of machinations and quick-witted dialogue, "First Lady" is a period piece and it's fun to see how the filmmakers of the late 30s fantasized a Washington that never was. This must have been a nice distraction as America inched out of the Depression and moved closer to global war. It's good entertainment today.
Kay Francis stars in a delightful adaptation of the George S. Kaufman-
Katharine Dayton play First Lady which enjoyed a nice run on Broadway
in the 1934-1935 season and starred Jane Cowl and Stanley Ridges in the
parts played here by Francis and Preston Foster.
Back in these days when primaries were only confined to a very few states and deals were made in those proverbial smoke filled rooms, First Lady was far more relevant in the national scene of those years than now. Kay Francis is the wife of Secretary of State Preston Foster and she'd like to see her husband as President. Her family has been in the White House before, her grandfather was president at one time. It's what's given her the status of Washington hostess and behind the scenes maker of policy and men.
Kaufman was very clever indeed in choosing Kay's character name of Kate Chase Wayne. Back in the 19th century one Kate Chase Sprague was the daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Governor and Senator from Ohio and Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury. Chase was a widower and his daughter before and after she married William Sprague, a Senator from Rhode Island was a popular Washington hostess and behind the scenes back room player. She strove mightily to make her father president, he had to settle for being Chief Justice however to cap his career off.
This 20th century Kate Chase has an ongoing rivalry with another Washington hostess in Verree Teasdale. Teasdale is the trophy wife of a pompous old water buffalo of a Supreme Court Justice in Walter Connolly, but a promising young Senator in Victor Jory has caught her eye as well as the eye of Anita Louise, Francis's niece. Teasdale's thinking that she'd like to be First Lady even unofficially and she's pushing Keith.
Francis gets right back and starts a rumor that Connolly just might make a good presidential candidate and she's hoisted on her own petard for that one. The boom for the pompous old galoot actually takes off. Kay's got to do some scrambling for that one.
Of course she saves the day, but it's through the use of another old 19th century scandal that did almost sink a presidential candidacy and is more successful here. You have to see First Lady to find out what Kay did.
Francis and Teasdale are a good set of foes the like of which weren't seen until Joan Collins and Linda Evans came on prime time TV in Dynasty. My favorite though is Connolly, a guy no one thought of as president until he gets the bug. In fact this seems to be the germ of the idea for the famous George S. Kaufman film, The Senator Was Indiscreet with William Powell playing exactly the kind of character Connolly plays in the next decade.
You think Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain ever spar on the Washington, DC cocktail party circuit like this?
"First Lady" released in 1937, is a somewhat silly tale of Washington wives. The story has flaws, but Kay Francis and Veree Teasdale give solid performances as two arch enemies. Teasdale wants to divorce her stuffy older husband (Walter Connolly) who is a Supreme Court Justice. Then some high minded folks want to put Connolly up for President. Just why they want to do this is never fully explained - Connolly looks about as presidential as a toad. But, Teasdale relishes the thought of being first lady, so naturally divorce is now out of the question. Well, the sparks fly as a horrified Kay Francis loathes the thought of her enemy (Teasdale) potentially being first lady. The catty dialogue flies between the two women, and this is where they both shine as actresses. Francis herself wants to be first lady too, and wants her husband (Preston Foster in a thankless role) who is the current Secretary of State, to run also. Some of this is unrealistic - since when do Supreme Court Justices and Secretaries of State run for President anyway? Anyway, the film is certainly dated by today's standard of political movies, but see it for Kay Francis alone - Francis was one of Warner Brothers finest actresses from the Golden age of Hollywood.
Kay Francis is an aspiring "First Lady" in this 1937 comedy, based on
the play of the same name which had a healthy Broadway run in 1935-36
and starred Jane Cowl. The film also features Preston Foster, Walter
Connelly, Verree Tisdale, and Anita Louise.
Francis is Lucy Chase Wayne, granddaughter of a former President, and she'd like her Secretary of State husband (Foster) to make a run for President since the existing President isn't running again. When she realizes her nemesis Irene (Verree Tisdale) is dumping her fuddy-duddy Supreme Court justice husband (Connelly) and taking up with the dashing Senator Keane (Victor Jory) and will probably be pushing him to run, Lucy gets to work convincing the powerful head of a women's organization (Louise Fazenda) that Irene's current husband is great presidential timbre, thus forcing Irene to stay by her husband's side. Hubby is the world's dullest man, about as presidential as a piece of wood, and spends his evening listening to a family radio show.
This is obviously a play and as talky as all get-out, plus it's very dated, based on the premise that while politics is a man's world, the men are merely puppets for the women behind them. Kay Francis looks great and is very charming, but for me her comedy is a little bit pushed. As far as I'm concerned, Verree Tisdale as Irene walks away with the movie as the bored, bitchy Irene. Her scene with Connelly where she complains about their evenings at home is a riot. Connelly is great as the plodding Supreme Court Justice.
Kaufman wrote some wonderful dialogue, so the script is witty if low on action. Watch it for the performances.
Before the Web, before TV, before mass media, evidently Presidents were chosen at Washington cocktail parties and in smoke-filled rooms, judging from this talky but amusing filming of a hit George S. Kaufman stage comedy. The behind-the-scenes machinations are, as noted elsewhere, dated, but the Washington types--ambitious wives, stuffy old coots, self-important self-proclaimed representatives of the "women of America," newspaper barons--are still around, and you may be reminded of Cindy McCain or Rupert Murdoch when you view Verree Teasdale and Grant Mitchell. Teasdale really makes the movie, as the dissatisfied spouse of a preternaturally stupid Supreme Court justice (Walter Connolly, wonderful); her bitch-dialog scenes with Kay Francis have the tang of Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford in "The Women." Credit what must have been some original Kaufman stage dialog lovingly preserved by the filmmakers, who add little cinematically. Francis hasn't quite the natural bitchiness her character requires, and Preston Foster is a dullard of a Secretary of State, but the supporting cast is a pip--there's one exchange between Victor Jory and Anita Louise about corn stalks, of all things, that justifies the whole movie. It starts a bit slowly, and it's stagy, but it's very entertaining.
Wow...the reviews for this film and mine are going to be a lot
different. I guess that's okay, as there are movies for all tastes and
I just didn't happen to like this one very much.
Kay Francis plays the lead as a very manipulative woman who is married to the Secretary of State. She and all the women seem to think their very successful husbands are actually idiots who can be easily manipulated by them into greater and greater political success. In other words, the women are all conniving and the men, generally, are quite dim.
While all this apparently went over very well in the 1930s on stage, I wonder how many other people might dislike the film because of its rather old fashioned and sexist ideas. My concern was actually less because of sexism but more because it all seemed so incredibly contrived and fake--and almost like the relationship between the women and men from "The Flintstones"! Plus none of the characters seemed particularly nice or likable. Instead of the conniving, I would love to have seen a more gentle film where a wife DOES help her husband become a success because they are a team--less because she's the reincarnation of Macchiavelli! Overall, this film does not seem to have aged well. I think had the men and women not been such obvious stereotypes OR if they had made the characters a bit more evil and manipulative, it would have been a better film (though in the latter case, it certainly wouldn't have been a comedy).
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