Smart Woman (1948) Poster

(1948)

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5/10
A woman's place is in the courtroom.
mark.waltz25 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Standard "film noir light", this courtroom drama focuses on special prosecutor Brian Aherne and his personal romance/professional rivalry with defense attorney Constance Bennett over a sleazy rat (Barry Sullivan) who has been blackmailing her into defend him for his string of underworld crimes. He's under the thumb of ruthless D.A. Otto Kruger whose involved in some criminal activities of his own, and when Sullivan is put on trial for murder, Bennett must find a way to defend her client while not loosing the man she loves, yet also reveal the string of dirty deeds which Sullivan has committed over the years without getting prosecuted.

Lavishly filmed at the former Monogram studios (now renamed Allied Artists with a slight polish, even in the Bowery Boys films they were famous for), "Smart Woman" is an enjoyable but predictable drama of vice and graff in L.A.'s legal system. There's never any real surprise, but small details in the film (including James Gleason as Aherne's courageous assistant and Michael O'Shea as a wise-cracking hanger on who is obviously in love with Bennett) stand out. Gleason's character, Sam Corkle, must be a distant cousin of his "Here Comes Mr. Jordan"/"Down to Earth" character Max Corkle, or a long lost twin.

There's fine support from Isobel Elsom as Bennett's Billie Burke like mother, Selena Royle as Kruger's naive wife and Richard Lyon as Bennett's son, but there's never any doubt how this will play out. Bennett is still gorgeous here at 44, but unlike other vets Davis, Hepburn, Stanwyck and Crawford, was fading from the main stem of leading ladies. Aherne is likable, Kruger despicable and Sullivan an interesting amalgamation of good and evil, perhaps the most real character in the film.
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Mildly Disappointing
dougdoepke30 November 2012
A special prosecutor trying to clean up the town and a lady lawyer tangle in court, but get romantically involved on the outside.

Lowly Allied Artists (Monogram) assembled an A-list cast, pretty good production values, but then put a no-name director (W. Blatt) with all of 3 directorial credits in charge. The results are flatter than they should be, and I suspect his lack of a sure hand is partially to blame. Unfortunately, Bennett who can be quite sparkling is deadly serious here, somewhat out of sync with Aherne's lighter touch, while I suspect wisecracking O'Shea (Johnny) and the droll Gleason (Corkle) were brought in to liven things up. And, of course, on the sinister side there's that grinning old cobra Otto Kruger as the crooked D.A..

The plot's pretty complicated with an unexpected twist near the end. I couldn't figure out, however, whether the storyline was supposed to be a drama with comical overtones or a romantic comedy with dramatic overtones. Either way, it's a mild disappointment given the cast and battery of writers. (In passing—note that Bennett's lady lawyer wears a hat in court while defending her client. This may be the only time I've seen an officer of the court wearing a hat while court is in session. Nothing hangs on this; I'm just curious.)
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6/10
conflict of interests
blanche-22 July 2012
Constance Bennett is the "Smart Woman" in this 1948 film, and Brian Aherne is the attorney on the opposite side who falls in love with her.

Due to a corrupt political machine, the DA (Otto Kruger) has refused to indict on several cases. For that reason, a special prosecutor, Robert Larrimore (Aherne) is brought in. Larrimore and attorney Paula Rogers (Bennett) face off in court, and Larrimore falls for her right away and begins dating her. When the DA is killed, mobster Frank McCoy (Barry Sullivan) is arrested, and he appeals to Paula to help him. Larrimore will be trying for the state, and Paula has reason to fear that the situation will hurt their relationship.

This is a pretty good movie, though it's easy to figure out Paula's problems very early on. The cast is good, with a mix of '30s stars like Aherne, Bennett, Kruger, character actors like James Gleason and John Eldredge, as well as '40s newcomers Sullivan and O'Shea (who married Virginia Mayo).

The film was produced by Bennett herself, who was no longer the big star she had been in the '30s, thanks to now being 43 years old. The supporting roles for her had started in 1940 with "Two-Faced Woman," when she was 36. Fortunately things are better for women now, but age has always been a huge issue for women in Hollywood. Bennett, a luminous beauty in the '30s, is a good example. Bennett was an excellent businesswoman, and her reputation for glamor served her well in her cosmetics business and also a clothing business. She worked tirelessly during the war effort and, married to a general, entertained the troops who stayed overseas after WW II (she was an accomplished singer). She also did a nightclub act.

"Smart Woman" is not as good as Bennett's other production, Paris Underground, but it's serviceable.
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8/10
Bennett's last starring role
beyondtheforest21 January 2010
Constance Bennett's career seemed to be on the skids by the 1940s, which saw her appearing in B-movies and supporting roles. By 1948, she was producing her own films (she also produced Paris Underground in 1945). Both of these films are well-made late career entries for a fading star.

In Smart Woman, Bennett is supported by a strong cast, which includes Brian Aherne and Barry Sullivan, plus a host of reliable supporting players such as Otto Kruger (whom I remember as the older man opposite Joan Crawford in Chained) and Selena Royle (also opposite Joan Crawford in Damned Don't Cry).

The script is intelligent if not a roaring success. The chemistry between Bennett and her co-stars does not run particularly hot, but Bennett does get a chance to wear some gorgeous Adrian gowns and prove she is still a good-looking woman at the (then) advanced age of 43. The photography is polished and Bennett seems to be lit and photographed very, very carefully. There are even some noirish camera angles and shadow play. Bennett's performance is strong and does not appear dated with any evidence of her days as a silent film star. Her style seems contemporary, although Bennett is no longer the hypnotic beauty of her precode heyday.

As Bennett's second production effort, it is a solid vehicle for her, and an interesting film overall, but it was just not powerful enough to give her career any boost. After this, it was all supporting roles. But the film can easily be recommended as a glossy, well-made women's picture. If the film had a low budget, it's impossible to tell.
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