Secrets of a Secretary (1931) Poster

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Claudette is Sensational as a Blonde!!!
kidboots15 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
....for the first 15 minutes anyway, not that she isn't fabulous as a brunette too!! Before Claudette Colbert became a superstar, able to play dizzy heiresses, dedicated doctors and self sacrificing mothers with ease, she spent a few years playing to the best of her ability any roles that Paramount happened to throw her way.

Now here's a plot you don't see every day.. when gadabout socialite Helen Blake (Colbert) marries fortune hunter Frank (George Metaxa) on a whim, she arrives home to find her father dead and a bankrupt!! Just joking, I think it's plot line number 1172!! Anyway Frank walks out, not before he shows what a low creep he is. Helen finds a job as a social secretary to eccentric Mrs. Merritt (Mary Boland) whose daughter Sylvia (Betty Lawford) has been giving Helen grief since the film started. You see, Sylvia was madly in love with Frank, who was madly in love with Helen's money, now Sylvia is back with Frank and giving her fiancé Lord Paul Tarnwell (Herbert Marshall) the runaround. Paul doesn't care, he is renewing acquaintance with Helen, who he met years before.

Just when you start to think this is one of those goofy tea-cup dramas - it explodes with action!! Frank has become a gigolo- the kind who steals women's jewelry when they are dancing with him. He is found dead with a hysterical Sylvia in his room in a blood spattered dress!! But noble Helen stands up to "take the rap" because she has promised Mrs. Merritt that she will look after Sylvia while the parents are away and if it is not for the quick thinking of Paul....

The movie is not as dreadful as it starts out to be, Claudette made Helen down to earth and likable, even as a dizzy dame. George Metaxa (Frank) was more at home in front of a dance band, being a popular singer of the day. I can remember him in "Swingtime" encouraging Fred and Ginger to take a turn on the dance floor. Betty Lawford was an English actress who came to attention in "Gentlemen of the Press" (1929) but with Kay Francis in the cast no wonder Betty just faded away.
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excellent vehicle for Colbert's acting talents
mrbinkley14 August 2005
This pre-code film showcases Claudette Colbert's acting at its finest. The plot is somewhat complex, beginning with her marriage to a gigolo, sudden loss of fortune and subsequent maltreatment by a woman who "sins" (right on screen--oh for those adult pre-code days of yore!). The minor disappointment caused by Herbert Marshall's dull performance in a dull role does not detract from the film overall; Colbert's versatility grabs the viewer from the start and carries you throughout. Compared to her other early performances, her work here may be her best. This film is a must-see for Colbert fans. Due to the plot and supporting performances (excepting poor Herbert's), however, even people who don't particularly like Colbert will enjoy it, too.
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Enjoyable pre-code drama
cbryce596 July 2012
An enjoyable, well-acted pre-code, not very risqué except in theme. Claudette C is wonderful and so is Mary Boland, the upscale Marie Dressler.

I found this movie posted in full on youtube, a pleasant surprise, as I've never heard of it. A good way to spend an hour and fifteen minutes.

Claudette's character has to take a job as a social secretary upon her father's death, as she finds out he was broke. Just before he died, she had married a good-for-nothing on a whim, a wild night out. He leaves her when he finds out she is poor and starts working as a gigolo at a local club. When she meets an aristocrat after her heart, he is due to marry her former friend, the uppity daughter of her new boss, who is secretly see Claudette's sleazy husband. Complications arise...
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A depression era melodrama that turns into a bit of a thriller
AlsExGal31 December 2018
Helen Blake is a rich party hearty kind of girl who gets involved with a gigolo, and even marries him on a whim when she and her gang are making the party rounds and wind up in Pennsylvania. She goes home and finds out her father has had an attack of some sort, and he dies shortly afterwards. Later she finds out her dad died broke. He had lost his money in the stock market crash and had been subsisting off of loans from a family friend, Mr. Merritt (Berton Churchill). After paying all of the bills there will be nothing left. Her gigolo husband deserts her, claiming that she married him just for the money she thought he had, and Helen goes to work as a social secretary for Mr. Merritt's family. She is treated pretty well, but the daughter in the family, Sylvia, lost the gigolo to Helen, and she does the wicked stepsister routine towards Helen as much as she can get away with it.

How does this seguey into a suspenseful thriller? The gigolo actually goes and gets a job as a real gigolo at a nightclub, lifting older ladies' jewelry and giving it to his gangster boss from which he receives a cut. But the urge to cheat the gangster is irresistible to the gigolo, the urge to cheat on her British fiance (Herbert Marshall) with the gigolo is irresistible to Sylvia, and the British fiance, who is marrying Sylvia out of gratitude to her dad for a family favor, finds Helen irresistible. Complications ensue.

Mary Boland keeps things light as Mrs. Merritt who is kind to Sylvia and has some great one liners as she always plays the comic high society dame with flair. Note Millard Mitchell, who is uncredited, in a small role playing a cop twenty years before he is the rather clueless studio head in "Singin in the Rain".
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A pre-code classic!
JohnHowardReid15 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Although less known, yet another of the best movies produced in Hollywood's early sound period is "Secrets of a Secretary" (1931), brilliantly directed by George Abbott from an explosive script by Charles Brackett and Abbott himself.

With the exceptions of Herbert Marshall who plays a dull minor character in an appropriately dull manner and Mary Boland who essays an irritatingly vapid major character in an equally irritating, mike-hogging style, the players led by put-upon Claudette Colbert, self-indulgent Betty Lawford and the greasily villainous Georges Metaxa are absolutely superb.

Golden-voiced Metaxa, making his movie debut here, had just starred on Broadway in The Cat and the Fiddle. (A shame he wasn't retained for the M-G-M movie in which he was replaced by Ramon Novarro).

Character spotters will also notice a number of familiar faces in the uncredited support cast, including Porter Hall as a diner and Millard Mitchell as a captain of detectives.

The filmed-on-location action climax rates as one of the most thrillingly directed and presented of all the early talkies. Director George Abbott who did such a poor job with 1930's "The Sea God" really redeems himself with this pre-code classic.
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Creaky Claudette tries to boost precode soap opera.
mark.waltz30 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
With a voice that could curdle milk, Mary Boland took the art of playing annoying women and made it seem like reciting Shakespeare. She had a way of making annoying society matrons interesting, and in this convoluted tale of broke society girl Claudette Colbert taking a job as social secretary and trying to straighten out their messes. When she falls in love with the noble lord (Herbert Marshall) engaged to her former best friend Betty Lawford (now her boss's daughter), she tries to keep a professional distance but finds that the selfish Lawford is unworthy of him and that her mother, Boland, is vainly unaware of her failures. Lawford's selfish ways seem destined to catch up to her, but for noble Claudette, it's in her heart to help, threatening any happiness she might have in finding love herself.

Starting off with Colbert sort of on the same path to self destruction thanks to her association with Lawford, this changes gears suddenly and without real motive. Colbert tries valiantly to rise above the maudlin script (only amusing when Boland is on in oblivious glee), this is elegant but empty. One of Broadway director George Abbott's few films, this doesn't offer ant surprises, only frustration of going in so many different directions in a short time. Whether dealing with stolen jewels at the race track, blackmail, murder and determined cross examination, it just finally becomes too absurd to believe. Yes, precode soapers could be all over the place, but this one takes the wedding cake, smashing all sense out of it with the bride and groom from the top of the cake.
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