Friday, February 24, 2017

Lonely Wives

I got up today, and the first thing I did was look up a new pre-code movie to watch as I sipped my cup of tea.

I settled on 1931's Lonely Wives. Although it's another one of those very early talkies, I was impressed right away with how the story is set up. There's a close up of a record playing on a phonograph, and the song "Madeline" plays clearly.

Richard "Dickie" Smith is a lawyer, and his wife's name is Madeline. As the song fades into the background, we see two employees of Richard's discussing a recent telephone call from his mother-in-law, and in the old theatrical style of "whispering servants" exposition, we find out that by day Richard is a respectable lawyer, after the hour of 8:00, he becomes very "susceptible" to pretty women, and might 'forget' that he is a married man.

In fact, now that I think more about it, early films use a lot of theatrical devices, and this was probably to help the audience get used to the new technology of watching the story unfold on a flickering screen rather than watching actors perform it on the stage. Even the opening credits of the movie look like a stage, with a woman watching it, her back turned to the viewer.

So not only so we have the idea of a philandering husband, but the young secretary in this lawyer's employ  phones her friend, telling her that she knows the perfect lawyer to help her attain a divorce from her husband. A man 'not being able to help himself' would probably be better tolerated than a woman purposely leaving her husband, because women were still very much seen as the guardians of the home's morality.

When the nosy mother-in-law remarks to the young secretary that she shouldn't be here so late, the secretary says "Oh, I don't mind- I get paid double." And the MIL replies "Nothing could pay you for what might happen.  .  .", alluding to what virtue she might end up sacrificing if she stays late in the office of a man.

When 'Dickie' finally appears on screen, I was surprised to see what this guy looked like:

This is the charismatic businessman that's known for chasing pretty young girls around? He looks like a stuffy old literature professor. Huh.

He is a character actor, who seems to have become known for comedic roles rather than romantic leads, and this film is a romantic-comedy, so I guess it works out in that way. There are a lot of innuendos, and flirtatious behavior, but no overt sexuality.

It wasn't anything spectacular but there were some funny parts.

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