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A wealthy woman, trying to discourage a former boyfriend from pursuing her, hires a young songwriter who needs money to pay off his gambling debts to pretend to be her boyfriend. The problem is that the "phony" boyfriend is actually really in love with her. Written by
This innocuous comedy that marked the farewell performance of Norma Shearer on the big screen has quite a history to it. It was a French play by Jacques Deval, adapted for the stage by P.G. Wodehouse among others. It ran for 152 performances in 1927 on Broadway and starred the legendary Jeanne Eagels with Leslie Howard.
It then went to the silent screen the following year with Marion Davies and Nils Asther in the leads and scored a modicum of success there. But the most bizarre adaption was yet to come. In 1932 the story was reworked for Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante in the The Passionate Plumber. Irene Purcell is the female lead. Which brings us to the last and least version of this story.
I've a theory that Norma Shearer chose this vehicle to show Marion Davies that she could do one of her roles better. What other explanation could there be for turning down Mrs. Miniver as her farewell picture for this. And would you ever believe that Robert Taylor and Buster Keaton would play the same part on screen?
Shearer and Davies were a pair of feuding stars at MGM while Davies was there. Shearer was married to the boss, Irving Thalberg and Davies had her patron William Randolph Hearst who bought his way on to the lot. It's now conceded that Davies had a real flair for comedy, but that Hearst just could only see her as the heroine of many a drama. Shearer was a great dramatic actress who never quite scored in comedy. I'm betting for her final film she was going to show the retired Davies that she could do it better.
Well she didn't. In fact if any of P.G. Wodehouse's wit survived in this film, I must have dozed off. What emerges is a pleasant innocuous comedy which would have been long forgotten had it not been Norma Shearer's last film. When we first meet Shearer she's trying to fend off the advances of an amorous Taylor who has fallen in love at first sight. But later on she thinks he might be useful in fending off George Sanders's advances. She's trying real hard to dump the cad, but he's one charming rogue. So Norma hires Bob as Her Cardboard Lover to pretend he's the new man in her life. I think you can guess where this is going.
Shearer did not get quite the sendoff from the big screen that she thought she would have gotten, surely not anything like Mrs. Miniver would have been. For Taylor, he's pleasant enough, but if you want to see him and Shearer in much better form look at the 1940 film Escape.
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