Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Tonight's Movie: We Were Dancing (1942) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

A superior cast enlivens WE WERE DANCING (1942), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

WE WERE DANCING was Norma Shearer's penultimate film; she retired from the screen after the release of HER CARDBOARD LOVER (1942).

WE WERE DANCING was based on the Noel Coward play TONIGHT AT 8:30; over a decade before Shearer had starred in another Coward story, PRIVATE LIVES (1931).

WE WERE DANCING is a fairly goofy film which sometimes has feet of lead when it should be floating; the arch dialogue is a little too self-consciously theatrical. That said, it's still a worthwhile 95 minutes due to the leads and the deep supporting cast; it was, as my daughter termed it, "strangely engrossing."

Shearer plays Vicki, an impoverished Polish princess who breaks her engagement to wealthy American lawyer Hubert Tyler (Lee Bowman) in order to elope with Baron Nicki Prax (Melvyn Douglas), who sweeps her off her feet with a dance on the eve of her planned wedding.

Nicki, like Vicki, is a penniless aristocrat who's a "professional guest," lending his cachet to house parties of the wealthy in return for, in essence, room and board. Unfortunately, his marriage means he's no longer viewed as an eligible bachelor and his value on the house party circuit turns to nothing. If Nicki and Vicki are to survive, he might even have to get...a job!

Shearer and Douglas are fun in this, if a little too one note, though there's a marvelous scene where they both start crying; that moment is good in part because there's some genuine emotion under the frivolity. This being a comedy, there's no attempt to give their characters any depth, but their MGM glamour goes a long way to hold viewer interest.

There are so many great faces in this movie, starting with favorite Gail Patrick in her patented "other woman" role. It's a pleasure every time Patrick walks in the door; she combines delicious comedic timing and wicked intelligence with beauty, including her lovely dark hair. Bowman is also a personal favorite who has what might be called the "Ralph Bellamy role" in this film.

This is the kind of movie where the mere entrance of Marjorie Main as a judge serves as a joke punchline, causing extended laughter. She's a delight right down to her last line.

The cast also includes Connie Gilchrist, Alan Mowbray, Reginald Owen, Nella Walker, Florence Bates, Norma Varden, Thurston Hall, Pierre Watkin, and Dorothy Morris.

WE WERE DANCING was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and filmed in black and white by Robert Planck.

The Warner Archive DVD is for the most part an excellent, crisp print. There are a couple of scenes with some noticeable lines but for the most part it looks very good, with excellent sound. Fans of the actors should be pleased.

The DVD includes the trailer.

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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger mel said...

I'm not sure whether this is my kind of film, but: Marjorie Main AND Florence Bates! Two of my favourite character actresses.

I'm going to take a look at it - there's a good copy on YouTube, in seven parts.

Thank you for your recommendation, Laura.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Great cast. Must try and catch this one. A pity Norma decided to call it a day just about the time Garbo also left the screen. Two of the greats of MGM.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Today is Lee Bowman's birthdate! If I hear his voice, I come running back to the TV as if he were some old pal or something. Movies have a strange impact sometimes. This sounds worth a look. I like anything attached to Noel Coward in any way.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Mel, if you like those actresses you should check it out; Bates' role is fairly small but Main is hilarious.

Vienna and Caftan Woman, I'd also love to know what you think if you catch it.

I feel the same way about Lee Bowman, seeing TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT on a big screen several times in my teens made a lifelong impact.

Best wishes,

9:53 PM  
Blogger Ed Miller said...

Honorable mention to the always adorable Connie Gilchrist.
I've never been able to explain my unhealthy obsession with this film. I love the middle section, where Vicki and Nicki are living the life of a couple of freeloading, impoverished royals in the homes of nouveau riche yahoos in the American Midwest. One scene of particular pictorial beauty: their driving through a snowbound forest in a snazzy '42 Buick.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Connie Gilchrist is always enjoyable, Ed. Glad to know you enjoyed it!

Best wishes,

10:15 AM  

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