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Julie Cavendish comes from a family of great Broadway actors. Her mother Fanny staunchly continues acting. Her boisterous brother Tony is fleeing a breach of promise suit in Hollywood. Her daughter Gwen must decide between going on stage, or settling down in a conventional marriage. Julie is just thinking that it would be nice to retire and get married, when who should turn up but her old beau, Gilmore Marshal, the platinum magnate from South America.Written by
THEY'RE "AT HOME" TO YOU! Their escapades made headlines but their private lives and loves are now revealed to you! America's darlings as they are with the spotlights off! (Print Ad-The Guardian, ((Montreal, PQ)) 20 February 1931)
...but don't let that stop you from enjoying this film. Specifically, Fredric March's second billing on top of his Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role of Tony Cavendish in this film might lead you to believe that you are going to be treated to a big dose of March as a thinly disguised version of John Barrymore, as in fact the whole Cavendish family is supposed to be a parody of the Barrymore clan. That is not the case. I'd say March's role is a supporting one and his billing is probably due to the fact that he has the biggest role of any male in the film. That is because this film is in fact a close study of the hopes and angst of three generations of the female members of the Cavendish clan as they try to find a balance between the homes they want to have and the profession they love. It really is more of a drama examining the theatrical life from a woman's point of view than anything else.
The real star of the show is Ina Claire as Julie Cavendish, a 40ish actress who realizes mid-life is upon her and this has caused her to reflect upon her life. Specifically she is wondering if it is time to settle down with a long time somewhat bland but stable male acquaintance and leave the theatrical life behind. Julie's daughter Gwen is beginning her career on the stage and is contemplating marriage to a stock broker with old-fashioned ideas. He doesn't really want her to even start down a career road that he feels has ruined her mother's life. Julie's mother Fanny is considered a grand dame of the stage, but her dependence on a cane for walking has robbed her of the spotlight, and it is a hole in her life that she feels mightily. Much of this film thus focuses on these three women contemplating life in conversations with their significant others and each other - there is not that much action.
That's where Fredric March comes in. With his larger than life portrayal of Tony Cavendish/John Barrymore he periodically invades the ancestral home bringing the residual troubles of his wild life with him. He's either hiding from process servers fearing a breach of promise lawsuit or practicing his dueling with the servants. It is truly an inspired and hilarious performance, and if the Academy had supporting actor awards in 1930, March likely would have been nominated for that award instead and probably won. He really balances the film, keeping it light and preventing it from turning into pure soap opera.
Without March I'd consider this a well acted but a somewhat archaic 6/10. With March as Tony Cavendish it rises to an entertaining 7/10.
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