Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Other Men's Women (1931)

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN (1931), a Warner Bros. pre-Code directed by William A. Wellman, is the latest film I've watched via the Warner Archive streaming service.

I've been having something of a Mary Astor festival this week, watching her in a series of films with "woman" or "women" in the title! She was the heroine as the wronged wife in SMART WOMAN (1931) and a calculating shrew in WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN (1938).

In OTHER MEN'S WOMEN Astor falls somewhere in between, playing a good woman who makes a momentary bad decision.

Her character, Lily, is happily married to railroad engineer Jack (Regis Toomey)...but when Jack's coworker Bill (Grant Withers) moves in for a few months after his latest bout with the bottle gets him kicked out by his landlady, sparks eventually start flying between the sobered-up Bill and Lily.

Bill and Lily try to do the honorable thing and Bill moves out, but when Jack learns the truth about Bill and Lily's feelings for one another, tragedy results.

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN is an engrossing melodrama, made with the brisk toughness typical of Wellman's Depression-era films. The movie features strongly delineated, imperfect but interesting characters and has tremendous atmosphere; the location photography at a Southern Pacific Railroad yard called to mind Wellman's later WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933).

One of the interesting little bits in the film is Bill's habit of hopping off a train as it slowly heads through a yard; he runs into a diner and grabs some food, counting the cars as they go by, then runs out and hops back on the caboose. From there he clambers roof to roof over each car until he's back in the engine!

An odd aspect to the movie is it's the first time I can recall a blind character walking around with his eyes always closed. No explanation is given, and it seemed a bit peculiar.

In addition to Withers, Astor, and Toomey, there's strong support from James Cagney, appearing in his third film as Bill and Jack's coworker, and Joan Blondell as Bill's sometime girlfriend, a diner waitress named Marie. The cast also includes J. Farrell MacDonald, Fred Kohler, and Walter Long.

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN was filmed by Barney McGill. It runs 70 minutes.

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN, which was part of a 2009 Forbidden Hollywood DVD set, is one of roughly 20 pre-Code titles currently available to stream from Warner Archive. The print looked crisp and clear. Closed captioning is available.

I've previously reviewed another pre-Code title which currently streams at the Warner Archive site, BIG BUSINESS GIRL (1931). The titles periodically rotate so these films will likely leave the service at some point, replaced by a batch of fresh titles.

Thanks to Warner Archive for providing reviewer access to their streaming service. Warner Archive is available on desktop at WarnerArchive.com as well as via Roku, Apple TV, and iOS and Android apps.

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