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Aspiring actress Louise Muban attends the prestigious Paris School of Drama during the day and works at a dreary factory assembling gas meters at night. She daydreams and "acts" her way through life, and her fellow students at school begin to suspect her stories are just that - fabrications. After Louise begins to weave an actual meeting with a debonair playboy into a fantasy of club dates and romance, her co-student Nana discovers the lie when she too meets the playboy. Nana sets a trap for Louise, and the result is an end to one fantasy and the realization of another. Written by
Dramatic School is a kind of French version of Morning Glory with Luise Rainer as a continental version of Katharine Hepburn's Eva Lovelace. Luise sacrifices all for a career, going to the prestigious Paris School of Drama and working the night shift at a factory to make ends meet. She doesn't want fellow students like Paulette Goddard, Lana Turner, Virginia Grey, and Ann Rutherford to know what she's doing so she makes up stories about a more interesting life Luise wishes she were leading.
One day during class when a very strict acting coach Gale Sondergaard is giving a lesson she passes out and then tells the whopper of all time about going out with a well known man about Paris town in Alan Marshal. That sets off a nice chain of events that culminates in an ending typical of all backstage stories, I need not spell it out for you.
This was the last film Luise Rainer did under her MGM contract, it was dissolved by mutual consent between Luise and Louis B. Mayer. What Luise wanted and might have gotten at another studio were roles that were more challenging for her talent. She wanted what Greta Garbo had over at MGM and for Mayer there was only room for one Garbo on the lot. If Irving Thalberg had lived things might have been different, but who can say. In any event she and the rest of the cast acquit themselves admirably.
If anyone stands out though, for me it's Gale Sondergaard. She has a great part as a great actress who also teaches and is jealous of all the young ones coming through the school, especially Rainer. The acting profession is especially unkind to older women and Sondergaard channels a lot of resentment into her part.
Dramatic School was not a bad film for Luise to leave MGM on. It's not Camille or Ninotchka, but L.B. Mayer made it clear only one actress gets those parts on his lot.
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