Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 1931. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz, based on the novel by Rupert Hughes. Cinematography by Victor Milner. Music by Karl Hajos, Herman Hand, John Leipold. Costume Design by Travis Banton.
Sophistication is the word of the day in this pre-code melodrama, in which William Powell plays a classy gigolo who makes the ladies go mad with desire. He has been playing arm candy to a high society dame (Olive Tell) at the request of her wealthy husband, who has asked him to keep her company at the events that he’s too busy to attend. Powell enjoys the gifts lavished upon him by his benefactress, but runs into trouble when her spirited lass of a daughter (Carole Lombard) falls in love with him. Rather than get involved with her, however, Powell meets the far more demure Kay Francis at a party (she’s just as ritzy but her hair is brown so we know she has character as well as charisma) and their finding genuine affection with each other shines an unflattering light on his other activities. Extricating himself from the handouts is going to be difficult, however, when Lombard decides to make trouble for him by going to her father and spilling the beans on what Powell and her mother have been up to. Beautiful gowns by Travis Banton are amply displayed by the static camera shots and bare décor of this now incredibly dated film, which at one time would have been an opportunity to let Depression-era audiences get a look at the lives of society-page citizens, but now just seems corny.