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Mrs. Fay Cheyney, a rich American widow, insinuates herself into London society. Two men in particular -- middle-aged Lord Kelton and Lord Arthur Dilling, a young playboy -- pursue her. All are present at a large weekend house party, and though both men press their suit, Fay seems to favor Kelton. Then Dilling sees Fay's butler lurking in the gardens, recognizes him as a jewel thief who was apprehended in Monte Carlo, and realizes that Fay is probably after the hostess's pearls. Fay does get hold of the pearls -- but before she can pass them to her accomplice, Dilling gets hold of her.Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Determined Copy Editor
Joan Crawford in doing The Last of Mrs. Cheyney had to stand comparison with not one, but two previous actresses who essayed the part of a crooked adventuress who discovers she has a chance at love.
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney was first presented on Broadway as a play by Frederick Lonsdale in the 1925-1926 season and it ran 385 performances with Ina Claire in the lead. Then it was done as an early sound feature film for Norma Shearer who got rave reviews.
Not having seen Claire or Shearer in the part I only have Crawford to judge and she doesn't do badly at all in the part. Of course she and the film are helped greatly by the fact William Powell and Robert Montgomery are in the film and both can and have played this kind of light comedy in their sleep.
Crawford is the shill, the come-on, for a gang of thieves of which William Powell is one of the members. She's taken on the identity of wealthy sophisticated American widow Faye Cheyney who ingratiates herself with the rich and famous and gets in their homes to rob them. We find her first working her wiles on shipboard with Frank Morgan, playing the usual befuddled Frank Morgan part. Powell serves as her 'butler'. But she also meets wealthy young Lord, Robert Montgomery and through him gets invited to old dowager Duchess Jessie Ralph's for the weekend.
Jessie's got a big rock there that the gang would like to get a hold of. But Montgomery is offering Crawford a chance to break away from that life and it puts her in a dilemma. Since Powell's kind of stuck on her too, she's got another problem.
I think Crawford carried off the part quite well. But the best one in the film is Jessie Ralph. Seems as though the old duchess married into the aristocracy and she spots that Crawford is not all she claims she is. But she likes her nonetheless. Very similar to the part Florence Bates played in Saratoga Trunk with Ingrid Bergman. Ralph steals every scene she's in.
One of these days I met get to see the Shearer version. Till then I'll recommend this version of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney without hesitation.
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