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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.
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.
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.
*** 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.
I stumbled upon this movie on Christmas, after the opening tune of "The twelve days of Christmas" I thought it was a Christmas movie so I kept watching. Although they played the tune throughout the whole movie, it has nothing to do with Christmas what so ever. The movie itself is just as random as it's soundtrack, there's no chemistry or dynamics between the two characters, Garson seems too old for the role and Wilding seems too young. I like caper movies but this one is a real let down. Having no well-thought-out crimes or heart gripping romances, the only thing I found interesting was the costume designs and hair styles. It's pretty bland in general.
MGM made its third sound version of The Last Of Mrs. Cheyney now
entitled The Law And The Lady and the very British Greer Garson starred
in the the last of the last. Retitiled The Law And The Lady her co-
stars are the equally British Michael Wilding and the very Argentine
Fernando Lamas. I was always amazed how many properties MGM found for
both Lamas and Ricardo Montalban during their time at the studio that
were not necessarily Hispanic per se.
Unlike the other two versions The Law And The Lady give the origin of the partnership of the two society crooks. Greer is a maid accused of stealing Phyllis Stanley's earrings, but her scapegrace of a brother-in-law Michael Wilding saves her from Scotland Yard. Wilding is a twin brother younger by five minutes. The two team up and go into the fleecing and thieving business.
Which brings them to Marjorie Main in San Francisco where they board and attempt to fleece. But Marjorie's also hosting Fernando Lamas whose got a distant connection to Spanish royalty. So it's a choice between Wilding, Lamas, the con artist life, or jail if Inspector Rhys Williams of Scotland Yard ever catches up with them. Maybe some of more than one choice.
This English comedy of manners is a great example of how MGM fit Lamas into non-Hispanic subjects with a bit of rewriting. Wilding and Garson do their lines well, I can't imagine original author Frederic Lonsdale having any objections or even someone like Oscar Wilde if he ever heard it.
This version holds up well compared to the other two, perhaps we'll see more remakes yet.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Law and the Lady" is a delicious caper comedy. It's also a great
spoof of upper class society and the rich. And it's a romance and love
story to boot. The capers are in the form of scams and schemes to
film-flam the rich. So, they are crimes. But, fair warning it will be
very tempting to not regard them as such in this film. In the end,
justice triumphs in a most unexpected, humorous, and satisfying way.
One knows he or she is in for a real treat from the very start. The film opens with a text that reads, "This story begins in London at the turn of the century (20th). If they had known what was ahead, they never would have turned it." What follows is one of the funniest, wittiest, and most clever plots ever put on film in such an endearing story. It's a wonderful satire and hilarious spoof of royalty and high society.
One normally doesn't think of Greer Garson in comedy. She acted in just a few light or comedy films. We know her mostly for some wonderful dramatic roles and movies. She had the theater persona of a dignified and proper, yet warm and caring woman. Yet her film persona fits perfectly for her role as Jane Hoskins, aka Lady Lovely, in this film. Her co-star, on the other hand, was an old hand at comedy, as well as drama. Michael Wilding is the perfect English gentleman and gadabout, Nigel Duxbury. He was born five minutes too late to be first in the family's royal line. He actually does double duty as his twin brother, the Baron of Duxbury, in the short film opening. Nigel is the witty disinherited man with a zest for life just the right person to lead Jane astray.
It's all very innocent (well, except for the scam operations) and very funny. There are no slapstick, pratfalls or antics. Just a brilliant script with associated demeanor and behavior. I can't think of any other film that can outwit the dialog of "The Law and the Lady." The supporting cast all contribute to this superior comedy-caper-satire-romance. There are some lengthy hilarious scenarios in the film, but with little space left, I'll just share a few of the short quips.
Baroness, "But you'll get no character (reference, from me)." Jane, "I'm not interested in the character, baroness. I'm thinking of becoming a lady and for that no character is necessary."
Jane, "Mr. Duxbury, you are without question the most dishonest, the most immoral, the most unprincipled man I ever met in my life." Nigel, "That would sound more convincing if your hot little fist wasn't stuffed with money. But if it will make you any happier, we can always give it back your half." Jane, "Let's not be too hasty, Mr. Duxbury. We can think more clearly when we've had a little wine."
Nigel, "You talk like Gladstone and look like Helen of Troy." Jane, "You look like a duke and act like the Artful Dodger."
Jane, "I shall find a man worth 10,000 ($1.2 million in 2015) a year and marry him." Nigel, "What about love?" Jane, "I have no objection to love as long as he still has the 10,000."
Jane, "This would be purely a working arrangement?" Nigel, "Oh, incredibly pure." Jane, "Then why the diamonds?" Nigel, "Because, without them you are Jane Hoskins, but with them you are Lady Lovely."
Jane, "You promised that our relationship was going to be incredibly pure." Nigel, "Yes, now it's purely incredible."
Tracy Collans (played by Hayden Rorke), "Hoskins, place me next to Lady Lovely at supper." Nigel, "That might be a bit of a problem, sir." Collans, "Solve it, Hoskins, and I'll make it worth your while." Nigel, "Bribery, sir?" Collans, "Yes." Nigel, "I just wanted to make sure."
Juan Dinas (played by Fernando Lamas), astride a horse, "Is she married?" Nigel, "A widow, sir. She was heartbroken by her husband's death vowed to never look at another man." Juan, "Well, I do not want her to look at another man. I want her to look at Juan Miguel ... Dinas that's me." Nigel, "Well, I suggest you stay where you are, sir. Her ladyship could never resist an attractive horse."
Juan, "Do you like pigs, Lady Lovely?" Jane, "I've met so few."
Julia Wortin (played by Marjorie Main), "You oughta marry again, Jane." Jane, "You didn't." Julia, "At my age a good cook is more important than a husband."
Jane, "He offered me a hundred servants, a house of my own, and 8,000 pigs. He wants to marry me, Nigel."
Jane, "Nigel, I've been thinking. Couldn't you pinch the silver?" Nigel, "Oh, that's a very brilliant idea, indeed. I shall leave the house with one bag and four barrels?"
Julia, "They disappeared like beer at a policeman's picnic."
Jane, "You blaggard! It's all seeming crystal clear. All this time you planned every little scheme up your sleeve, and I'm to have no part of it. No part of it, eh? Well, at the risk of being accused of understatement, I'll tell you that you're an unmitigated, double- dealing, mealy-mouthed, underhanded scoundrel, and I should have known if from the first."
Juan, "You must love him." Jane, "Oh no. I hate him." Juan, "Jane, if ever I find a woman who can hate me so passionately, then I will know it is love."
There's more much, much more throughout this film. It's a wonderful, funny, warmly endearing comedy. It's a film that the whole family can enjoy, although younger viewers may miss some of the sophisticated humor.
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.
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