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Beautiful women are disappointed at a "bachelor luncheon" given in honor of middle-aged New York writer Lowell Sherman (as Geoffrey Clarke). He's giving up "love" to settle down and marry wealthy and attractive widow Alice Joyce (as Alice Frayne). The charming Mr. Sherman needs a steadier income than his stories provide. Sherman's best friend David Manners (as Austin Lowe) also wants to marry. The young millionaire chemist is in love with penniless blonde Frances Dade (as Monica Grey). The quartet have a problem, however. Bored with Mr. Manners, Ms. Dade claims to be in love with Sherman. The older man is tempted, but advises Dade to stick with Manners. Sherman tries to match her up with Manners, but Dade is determined to marry Sherman...
The second-billed player has the more minor role, but Ms. Joyce handles it skillfully. While not the story's focus, the film offers viewers a good look at Ms. Joyce in a featured role. She was one of the first "movie star" women to achieve great popularity. Making box office and popularity polls from 1912-1918, she increased her reputation as a fine actress with wise film choices during the 1920s. She could play the leading woman or a supporting role, as she does here. Her quiet, natural style has aged as well as Joyce; alas, she retired after one more film...
You'd know "He Knew Women" was based on a stage play without investigating. Written by S.N. Behrman, it started as "The Second Man" (1927), which starred Broadway's now legendary duo Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Director Hugh Herbert and the RKO crew keep it simple and the approach works. Essentially, this is minimalist drawing room play with four characters; it does not appear much was done to extend the original. Without stock footage or showy locations, you simply feel close to the stage. Sherman is the star and becomes convincing by channeling both Mr. Lunt and, especially, John Barrymore. Having Sherman be more desirable than Manners is a tough sell, but Manners is just delicate enough to make Sherman appear more desirable. It's worth a look.
****** He Knew Women (4/18/30) Hugh Herbert ~ Lowell Sherman, Frances Dade, David Manners, Alice Joyce
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