The beautiful and frivolous wife of a plantation owner in antebellum Louisiana, proves unsatisfactory at running the household, leading her serious-minded husband to enlist the help of her unmarried sister.
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'The toy wife' or how to spoil your own life and the lives of others by being fickle and frivolous. This is the story of Gilberte, a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl who charms, attracts and seduces all the men she meets. Back in Louisiana after a stay in France, she will steal her fiancé from her loving and beloved sister Louise. Once married with George, she will prove a poor mother for little Georgie, a poor manager of the plantation and an unfaithful wife. She indeed starts an affair with André, the dashing young man she actually loves. Tragedy will ensue. Written by
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With the US Civil War on the horizon, coquettish 16-year-old Luise Rainer (as Gilberte "Frou Frou" Brigard) returns from a French finishing school to her Louisiana plantation. After looking over her slaves, Ms. Rainer selects self-described young "darkie" Theresa Harris as her personal attendant. Called "Pick" (short for "Pickaninny"), Ms. Harris is the cast member with the most star quality in this story. Rainer becomes involved with two men, stable lawyer Melvyn Douglas (as Georges) and more irresponsible Robert Young (as Andre). Her immaturity and flirtatious nature causes heartache in Ms. Rainer's relationships with these men and her older sister Barbara O'Neil (as Louise)...
It should have been obvious by "The Toy Wife" that MGM's much hoped-for success with Luise Rainer was not going to materialize. Here, she impersonates Greta Garbo (from "Camille") doing Bette Davis (from "Jezebel"). The studio and Rainer would soon give up on each other. It's a shame, because Rainer might have gone on to have an engaging US film career. MGM and studio head Louis B. Mayer should have originally pushed Rainer for a "Supporting Actress" award (for "The Great Ziegfeld") and given her some more suitable projects. Here, she is way off the mark. "The Toy Wife" is also notable for its threatening treatment of house slaves. Alma Kruger does well as Mr. Young's mother.
*** The Toy Wife (6/10/38) Richard Thorpe ~ Luise Rainer, Melvyn Douglas, Robert Young, Barbara O'Neil
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