Monday, March 22, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Faithless (1932)

FAITHLESS is an interesting and fairly brutal pre-Code look at one couple's struggle to survive during the Great Depression.

Initially the biggest problem to confront advertising executive Bill Wade (Robert Montgomery) and his fiancee, wealthy heiress Carol Morgan (Tallulah Bankhead), is Bill's insistence that they live on his income of $20,000 a year. As Bill and Carol squabble and reunite multiple times over the ensuing weeks, Carol loses her fortune and then Bill loses his job.

With finances no longer keeping them apart, Bill and Carol ultimately decide two can live cheaper than one and marry, only for Bill to be gravely injured his first day starting a new job. With all other avenues seemingly closed to her, Carol goes to unthinkable lengths to keep her beloved husband alive.

This was a dark yet romantic film which is as "pre-Code" as they come. The plotline would have been impossible to film just a couple of years later, especially as the heroine is not punished for her transgressions, as would have been required under the Code. The ending was somewhat unexpected and a bit improbable, but very touching.

The Depression storyline really hit home with me, as I'm feeling quite pessimistic and disturbed about the economy and our nation's future over the past couple of days. I fear that our nation's accelerating reckless spending -- and the inflation and taxation bound to follow -- is sending us careening straight into the same dire economic straits depicted in the film. But perhaps I digress...

This was the first film I've seen with Tallulah Bankhead. She was good in the role, but I can't say I particularly liked her. The main draw for me to see this film was Robert Montgomery, who is wonderful as Bill; despite his downward economic spiral, Bill retains optimism, and he is (rather amazingly) willing to look the other way at Carol's economic "choices" not once, but twice. Montgomery plays the role with a sweetness and vulnerability which is most appealing.

Hugh Hubert has a toned-down, atypical role as a man who wants to be Carol's "benefactor" early in the film, when she and Bill have split up. Maurice Murphy, Louise Closser Hale, Anna Appel, and Sterling Holloway are also in the cast. Particular kudos go to Ben Taggart as a kindly police officer who helps Carol when she needs it most.

The director was Harry Beaumont. The movie runs 77 minutes.

FAITHLESS has not had a DVD or video release, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs as part of a Montgomery birthday tribute on May 21, 2010.

2012 Update: This film is now available on DVD-R in the Warner Archive Robert Montgomery Collection.

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