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"The Law and the Lady" is a surprisingly good movie that doesn't get shown
lot for some reason. Greer Garson, Michael Wilding, Marjorie Main, and
Fernando Lamas all shine in their roles. Wilding's character convinces
Garson's to team with him as globetrotting con artists who wind up in
California trying to cheat a disarmingly candid (and as always, tough
minded) Main. Their plans are further complicated when Garson starts to
fall for Lamas and starts to rethink her relationship with
The comedy is light-hearted and avoids taking itself too seriously. Knopf, brother of the famous publisher, only directed a few films, and this was his only effort after the early 1930's. He was able to get good performances from his excellent cast.
1960's TV fans will recognize Natalie Schafer (Gilligan's Island) and Hayden Rorke (I Dream of Jeannie) playing small but noticeable roles.
Greer Garson is the lady in question in "The Law and the Lady," a 1951
film also starring Michael Wilding, Marjorie Main and Fernando Lamas.
It's a loose remake of "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney." Here, Garson plays a
former British household maid at the end of the 19th Century who hooks
up with the brother of her ex-employer. They sort of fall into a con
game and decide to keep going with it. After being asked to leave
several countries when they're discovered cheating at gambling, they
travel to America and San Francisco high society. They set their sights
on a wealthy woman (Main) and her necklace. Complications arise.
This is a good movie with some very funny dialogue, especially in the beginning - when the lady of the house informs Garson she won't get a reference, she replies, "I won't be needing one. I intend to become a lady, and there are no character references necessary for that." Garson plays her role in a very cool, offhanded manner that is very effective. Wilding is amusing as her partner in crime, and Main is a riot as a tough old rich widow.
All in all, a very charming movie and worth seeing.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"I am going to become a lady, which requires no character", well-spoken upstairs maid Greer Garson tells her female employer who has falsely accused her of stealing her earings. Garson teams up with her employer's brother-in-law (Michael Wilding) after telling him he looks like a gentleman while acting like the Artful Dodger. From there, Garson, who doesn't need the Pygmallion transformation like Eliza Doolittle, becomes a lady with Wilding's assistance. Even more than Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady", there is no doubt from the beginning that Garson is already a lady, even in her servant clothes. She somewhat resembles a young Rosalind Russell more than she does her classic role of Mrs. Miniver in her short-dark wig. Garson then disguises herself as European royalty on holiday in Europe. After being kicked out of Monte Carlo when their con game is discovered, Garson and Wilding head to several elaborate destinations where the same thing happens. They end up in San Francisco where their aristocratic ways fool the local wealth, lead by well-dressed but rough and tough Marjorie Main, playing a role similar to the one played by Jessie Ralph in "San Francisco". With such high-society folks as "I Dream of Jeanie's" Hayden Rourke and "Gilligan's Island" Natalie Schaefer in Main's circle, Garson's presence is soon considered to be the social event of the year. This leads to a comedy of manners with Garson fooling the general population, although she definitely seems too gentile for the role. As Garson gains Main's trust, she plans to steal her jewels, but doesn't count on falling in love with a handsome Latin Lothario (Fernando Lamas). And with Wilding breathing down Garson's neck (while posing as Main's butler), Garson is in great danger of being exposed. This is light comedy at MGM's most sophisticated, perhaps not as polished as the two previous versions ("The Last of Mrs. Cheyney", 1929 with Norma Shearer, 1937 with Joan Crawford), but still fast moving and entertaining. The conclusion, however, is totally preposterous and seems entirely forced.
The Law and the Lady is an unnecessary remake of The Last of Miss
Cheyney, which was filmed twice before (there is a Norma Shearer
version and a Joan Crawford version, both of which are superior). This
was resident MGM queen Greer Garson's turn in the role, in which she is
miscast as a lady jewel thief. Although Garson was a beautiful woman
and aged extremely well, she is slightly too mature for the role. At
46, she is still very pretty, but not effective at playing a mysterious
and alluring femme fatale. As a poor woman masquerading as a lady in
turn of the century San Francisco society, she is just a little bit too
convincing as a lady. Greer Garson was perhaps unable to portray women
of the lower class. She is entirely too classy to make this character
Furthermore, this appears to be a low-budget production, tailored for a fading star rather than a brilliant one. It is shot in black and white, the sets are nothing too extraordinary, and it has a shot-on-the-studio-lot feel to it, which makes it seem both dated and stuffy. This story had been around a long time by 1951, and it comes to the screen as tired as one would expect.
The writers apparently tried to inject some life in it through rewriting the script and changing some story elements, but overall it's nothing new. It's a mediocre film with mostly mediocre performances, even by the usually radiant Garson. One bright spot is Marjorie Main--she is indeed a hoot.
The Law and the Lady is, however, not a complete waste of time and if taken as light entertainment is a somewhat enjoyable movie for a rainy afternoon.
Guess the butler got left out of the title, but he was so spot-on with his many graces and polish. That cape in the early segment was quite dashing, along with the top hat and stick. Did not like Ms. Garson's dark hair in this or in "Mrs. Parkington." It just doesn't suit her, but she is still quite lovely. Her voice alone is ample attraction. "When Thieves Fall Out" would be a good title, maybe adding, " And Make Up." Lots of irony there at the rancho, with everyone's righteous indignation fizzling out when their dirty linen got a genteel airing. Then, just when everything was all smiles again, along comes the extradition agent, all over a measly hundred pounds. What a bore. Oh well, maybe time off for good behavior will come sooner than expected, what with all the repository of charm brought to bear from the respective parties. Then, tally ho, off to the country house, manor house, town house and/or shooting box. This is so changed around, one needn't compare with previous editions. Certainly an interesting group of scenarios. Fun picture.
It looks as though MGM didn't go to much expense to make THE LAW AND
THE LADY, a re-working of an earlier vehicle that once starred Norma
Shearer in a first version and then Joan Crawford.
The main trouble is not the script, which has some fairly good lines and situations, but the miscasting of ladylike GREER GARSON in the central role. She has so much class and sophistication that it's impossible to believe she's anything less than an aristocrat from head to toe. In fact, the revelation that she's really a working class girl comes as a shock of disbelief. This is similar to Audrey Hepburn being more believable as Liza the lady in MY FAIR LADY than Liza the gutter snipe.
Handsome FERNANDO LANZA isn't asked to do too much but he does it very well and MICHAEL WILDING appears to be enjoying himself pretending to be Garson's valet. But the comic presence of MARJORIE MAIN as a rich, tough talking widow who keeps her jewels in a wall safe saves the film from becoming static as it weaves its way through the slight story of two jewel thieves (Garson and Wilding) going about their business as partners in crime--until the law finally catches up with them.
It passes the time pleasantly enough but amounts to little more than a trifle.
I really don't have much to say about this movie because there is so
little on which to comment. If you have ever seen the "Last Mrs.
Cheney" and enjoyed it, this will likely be a disappointment. Greer
Garson is fright. Fernando Lamas is at his best, which means he is at
his hammiest. The plot and the pacing are all over the map because they
tried to disguise the remake by re-writing it in random ways. Michael
Wilding is good, but he is no William Powell. The final straw was the
"deus ex machina" ending.
If there is no other option for watching a good classic movie, this flick might squeak by as an alternative. My apologies to those of you who like this movie. Sorry we can't see eye to eye on this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The good stuff: The writing in this remake makes the motivations of the
characters much clearer in the climactic scenes. Wilding is very good
as the gentleman thief, Lamas is full of Latin brio and charm without
being over the top, and Main is delightfully (and typically) over the
top. Also, this version is not burdened by the turgid Joan Crawford,
whose self-important acting style weighs down every film - even the
heavy weepers and noirs for which she is best suited.
The not-so-good stuff: Garson is, indeed, a bit too mature and sophisticated for her role. I once considered her to be lovely, with exotic eyes. In this role, however, her eyes just looked puffy. Worse, her make-up accentuates her puffy eyes, rather large nose and weak chin. She looked like a caricature of herself. And her hair was not the soft, radiant red with which I am enamored, but very dark brunette, providing a stark contrast with her pale complexion and bad make-up. I could have suspended my disbelief enough to accept her as a working class woman, but her appearance was simply jarring. A real pity. The story is pure contrivance, the worst part being that despite the ease with which it could be done, nobody except Lamas' grandmother, the "princess," has the sense to actually check out Garson's story. I have a feeling that passing one's self off as a member of the nobility would take a little more effort and preparation than simply inventing a title and surname at a fancy restaurant.
I was immobilized at home after surgery when I saw this movie. It passed the time.
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