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André De Toth
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A lesser-known vehicle for the beautiful Greer Garson
THE LAW AND THE LADY (1951) is the third MGM adaptation of the play "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney" (previously filmed with Norma Shearer in 1929 and Joan Crawford in 1937).
While the Shearer and Crawford versions are very similar, THE LAW AND THE LADY branches out from the play's story, changing the names of the characters and expanding the backstory between the would-be jewel thief (a brunette Greer Garson) and the phony butler (Michael Wilding). This version is more romantic than its predecessors.
Here Garson is a former housemaid with gold-digging aspirations who falls in with Wilding, the no-good brother of her last employer, a wealthy English nobleman. With Garson posing as a widowed aristocrat ("Lady Loverly"), the two hop across the globe conning wealthy men at casinos before setting their sights on San Francisco society widow Marjorie Main and her one-of-a-kind diamond necklace.
That's where the "Mrs. Cheyney" plot starts kicking in, with Garson infiltrating Main's house as a weekend guest and Wilding securing a position as Main's butler (after a glowing recommendation from Lady Loverly). Over the weekend Garson meets the dashing and Hispanic Fernando Lamas, whose romantic overtures annoy Wilding, who's grown rather fond of his partner-in-crime. All this romantic tension complicates the jewel heist scheme.
While nothing substantial, this movie is enjoyable as a light romance with a criminal twist. And Greer Garson's beauty outshines any shortcomings the film may have (although some plot points don't seem fully developed). Having seen the two previous MGM versions of "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney", it's refreshing in a way to see a remake that feels like its own movie, telling its own story in its own way. A charming film, especially for Greer Garson devotees.
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