Monday, September 26, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Housewife (1934) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

HOUSEWIFE (1934) is an enjoyable Warner Bros. marital melodrama available from the Warner Archive.

HOUSEWIFE was released by the Archive a few years ago, but as I've remarked in the past, one of the pros for a "manufactured on demand" service is that the backlist is just as accessible today as it was when the movie was released circa 2011.

HOUSEWIFE is an imperfect film which is perfectly entertaining, and it will doubtless please fans of the cast.

HOUSEWIFE was released in August 1934, just after enforcement of the Production Code began. It tells the story of Bill and Nan Reynolds (George Brent and Ann Dvorak), who have been married long enough to have a school-age son (Ronnie Cosby).

Bill and Nan are happy but struggling financially, as office manager Bill hasn't had a raise in years, and his boss (Robert Barrat) treats him as a nuisance, so the future there is bleak. Fortunately clever Nan has been carefully saving money from the household budget for years, and she offers it to Bill to enable him to launch his own advertising business.

Just when it looks like the struggling new business will go under, Bill lands a big account, and soon the business is hugely successful. Nan has the house of her dreams, complete with a butler (Charles Coleman)...but Bill's eye is caught by a predatory ad exec, Pat (Bette Davis).

It's quite an entertaining little movie, although Bill seems like rather a dope to consider leaving someone as lovely as Nan for a "homewrecker." Being the "other woman" is pretty much all there is to Bette's character; we know she was once poor and has worked her way up, including changing her name, but otherwise her character is, plain and simple, a selfish brat.

On the other end of the spectrum is Bill's gallant client Paul (John Halliday), who yearns for Nan from afar.

Bill clearly likes the fantasy of a lovely woman who is available without household bills and other humdrum issues attached, and it seems likely any marriage would have quickly crashed and burned, as Pat is strictly looking out for number one.

One wonders if Code enforcement had any impact on the film, particularly the abruptness of Bill's realizing his mistake in abandoning his wife; the ending seems a bit truncated. Incidentally, it's a miracle Nan is willing to take him back after the obnoxious things he says to her when he tries to end their marriage.

From the modern perspective, Nan's self-deprecating description of herself as "just" a housewife rankles, as she is clearly the force behind the man and his successful business, along with doing most of the parenting and running the home. It's a good role for Dvorak, who is admirable yet also realistically frazzled at times.

Hobart Cavanaugh and Ruth Donnelly play Nan's brother and sister-in-law. I missed picking out Bill Elliott as a clerk!

HOUSEWIFE was shot by Alfred E. Green and filmed by William Rees. It runs 69 minutes.

There are no extras. The DVD is a nice-looking print with good sound quality.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


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