Saturday, September 06, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Trouble for Two (1936)

TROUBLE FOR TWO was a marvelous surprise, a completely unique romantic adventure film. I'm hard-pressed to think of another film MGM made like it in this time period; the only comparison which comes to mind is the 1937 version of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, which I haven't seen for many years.

TROUBLE FOR TWO is based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story, "The Suicide Club." Like ZENDA, the story concerns European royals, hidden identities, an arranged marriage, and a power play against a monarchy. A perceptive comment at IMDb notes that the film also has Shakespearean overtones.

Robert Montgomery plays Crown Prince Florizel, who is vacationing in Victorian London prior to a much-dreaded arranged marriage to a princess. (Montgomery is made up to look rather like Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, and carries it off with style.) He becomes enamored with a mysterious woman (Rosalind Russell) and soon finds himself investigating the creepy goings-on behind closed doors at the Suicide Club.

To say much more would spoil a wonderful film which blends comedy, swashbuckling adventure, romance, and a tinge of horror. The dialogue is razor sharp; the film seems to combine several genres, including just a dash of period screwball comedy, if there is such a thing -- but it all works.

Over the past year or so I've seen roughly a dozen and a half Robert Montgomery films, and this ranks as one of my top favorites. He's terrific as the young prince whose dismay with his lot in life leads him to be somewhat impetuous and foolhardy, yet he is also ultimately revealed to be resourceful, loyal, and brave. Montgomery and Russell are a charming romantic couple, and his delight in her unexpected entrance into his life is a joy to watch.

The supporting cast includes Frank Morgan as Florizel's loyal aide and Reginald Owen as the president of the Suicide Club. E.E. Clive plays Florizel's father, and Louis Hayward has the unusual billing "Man With Cream Tarts." You'll understand when you see it!

TROUBLE FOR TWO was directed by J. Walter Ruben. It runs a fast-paced 75 minutes. The movie is akin to a page-turning good book; you won't want to be distracted until it ends.

From the original 1936 New York Times review by Frank S. Nugent (warning, the full review at the link contains significant plot spoilers): "...a thoroughly entertaining adventure film, romantic, suspenseful and capitally played.... The work of the entire cast is commendable...frequently achieves results with a finesse which we have come to consider a stylistic trade-mark of England's master melodramatist, Alfred Hitchcock...superior craftsmanship."

TROUBLE FOR TWO has not been released on VHS or DVD, but can be seen on TCM.

The trailer can be viewed here. It's rather goofy as trailers go, as the beginning seems to convey that it's a modern movie rather than a period adventure. The trailer includes billing for Virginia Weidler and David Holt, who played Russell and Montgomery as children but whose parts were, at some point early in the film's release history, cut from the movie.

I suspect this film is too obscure for there to ever be a DVD release, but it would really be something if the film could be reconstructed with those edited scenes. Of course, I never expected movies like DAY-TIME WIFE or BLUES IN THE NIGHT to come out on DVD and was pleasantly surprised this year, so perhaps one day we'll be lucky enough to see the release of a boxed set of Montgomery-Russell films.

Montgomery-Russell movies previously reviewed here: FORSAKING ALL OTHERS (1934), LIVE, LOVE AND LEARN (1937), and FAST AND LOOSE (1939). Montgomery and Russell costarred in a fifth film, NIGHT MUST FALL (1937), for which Montgomery received a Best Actor nomination.


Blogger Mrs. Happy Housewife said...

Sounds like a great movie. I voted on TCM's release on home video.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad you voted, every bit helps call more attention to viewers' interest in it! I hope you get the opportunity to see it.

Best wishes,

8:28 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

I just can't get used to Bob not being in a suit ;0)

4:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...


I was really impressed seeing him do a swashbuckler kind of role -- wish he'd done more. :)

Best wishes,

5:40 PM  

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