Ladies’ Man (1931)

Caution: Spoilers Ahead! One of the first lessons for fans of early film is perhaps also the hardest: many pre-Codes and early talkies are simply no good. The technological limitations, the era, the changing morals and styles, even when acknowledged, fail to fully excuse many of these indifferent programmers. Ladies’ Man (1931), with its unparalleled cast of William Powell, Carole Lombard and Kay Francis, on the surface promises much, but unfortunately exhibits the particular type of cinematic laziness so common with the lesser pre-Codes, a formula that mixes a scandalous story with shimmering gowns and lovely sets, the goal being to create a profitable programmer and nothing more. Ladies’ Man does its amazing cast a disservice by reining in their natural charisma, and much of this incompetence can assuredly be traced back to director Lothar Mendes. The dialogue is tiresome and stilted, the kind of thing one would expect in an early 1929 talkie, and is made worse by the deliberate silencing of the delightful, trademark patter of all three stars. Occasionally they shine despite an obvious dampening influence, but for most of this film’s 75 minutes the three speak slowly, adding unnecessary pauses and falling into a dull monotone that may very well have been an unconscious protest against the demands of the director. Only Olive Tell as the overwrought society matron shows consistent vocal emotion, if one can call falsetto politeness punctuated with a shrill faux-British warble “emotion.” A series of stylized art deco dames float through the … Continue reading

The Gone Too Soon Blogathon: Marie Prevost

Edit 07/06/2013: For anyone interested in doing their own project on Marie Prevost, please make sure to read the note at the bottom of the page. Thank you. This post originally appeared at http://www.shebloggedbynight.com/2012/03/gone-too-soon-blogathon-marie-prevost.html and a copy can be found on the Internet Archive here. *** Almost exactly one year ago, I posted my latest Marie Prevost Project article and then promptly scarpered. In the interim I managed a brief post on Nana (1926), a film Marie is not actually in, but otherwise the Project has lain dormant. Thanks to the Gone Too Soon Blogathon hosted by Comet Over Hollywood, however, Marie is back on SBBN where she belongs, and it’s time for a little history about her life. It’s 1919 and Marie Prevost has been a Bathing Beauty with Mack Sennett’s studio for four years. Her first appearance was probably in “Those Bitter Sweets,” (1915), where she can be seen, probably, as an extra in the ice cream parlor. For a while I was hesitant to commit to Marie being in “Those Bitter Sweets” because of her sister Peggy’s description of Marie’s role — she claimed Marie’s chair was a prop that busted when she sat down, and that does not happen in the film — but after discovering Peggy had a tendency to exaggerate, I’m back to believing Marie was indeed the extra in “TBS” and there was never any prop chair in the first place. In those early Sennett years, Marie appeared in plenty of sexy sexy … Continue reading