Friday, July 17, 2009

Tonight's Movie: When Ladies Meet (1941)

MGM's WHEN LADIES MEET (1941) features an all-star quartet of actors -- Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor, Greer Garson, and Herbert Marshall -- in an enjoyable romantic comedy-drama.

Mary (Crawford) is an author who thinks she loves her married publisher Rogers (Marshall). Jimmy (Taylor) loves Mary and arranges for her to meet Rogers' lovely wife Clare (Garson), with interesting results.

WHEN LADIES MEET was previously filmed by MGM in 1933, during the pre-Code era. The original film starred Myrna Loy in the Crawford role, Robert Montgomery in the Taylor part, and Frank Morgan and Ann Harding as the publisher and his wife.

The original version was 20 minutes shorter and, as I recall, the script was somewhat more frank; however, I think on the whole I preferred the remake. Ironically, the longer version felt less "talky" and more natural to me, though I'm not certain why.

It's been over a year since I saw the original and I'd like to take another look at it for comparison's sake, but I remember finding Myrna Loy's character quite ruthless and not very sympathetic. (A few years later Loy played a similar character in MAN-PROOF, which has a plotline somewhat reminiscent of WHEN LADIES MEET.) It could be this time I was simply more familiar with the story and what to expect, but I found Crawford to be a warmer, more appealing Mary. I say this as someone who loves Myrna Loy and couldn't tolerate watching Crawford movies until recently! Crawford also looks especially beautiful in this film.

This wasn't the first time Robert Taylor played one of Robert Montgomery's pre-Code roles; Montgomery's great comedy THE MAN IN POSSESSION (1931) was remade just six years later as PERSONAL PROPERTY (1937), with Taylor in the lead. The underrated Taylor is a great asset to WHEN LADIES MEET, in a performance Cary Grant couldn't have done better; he's charming, funny, and when called for he injects just the right note of seriousness. The original film's lead, Robert Montgomery, is one of my favorite actors, but I also love Robert Taylor; I enjoyed seeing what each actor brought to the role.

Marshall is an actor I always enjoy, but it must be said his character in this is fairly thankless, playing a two-timing idiot. After all, what man would dream of leaving Greer Garson, for goodness' sake? Especially when she's as lively and charming as she appears in this film. Garson is marvelous and just about steals the movie.

Although the remake was somewhat constrained by the Production Code, I felt as though the censors must have been asleep at times, as I was a bit surprised by some of the film's innuendo, given the era. The depiction of the relationship of giddy country hostess Bridgie (Spring Byington, in a role originally played by Alice Brady) and ever-accommodating Walter (Rafael Storm) was also a bit unusual, even if the screenwriter did go to the trouble of pointing out they had separate rooms.

MGM's great costume designer Adrian, who designed the gowns for the original film, also designed the costumes for the remake. Although Crawford's first dress is rather hideous, resembling a nun's habit more than an evening gown -- no disrespect intended to nuns! -- most of the dresses are quite beautiful. As with the original film, the country house set is amazing, particularly the garden; I'd move in tomorrow if I could!

The supporting cast includes Mona Barrie and Max Willenz. A young autograph seeker at a party early in the film is played by Dorothy Morris, a charming young actress who appeared in numerous MGM films in the '40s, most notably THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943) and OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945).

The film was directed by Robert Z. Leonard, who also did uncredited work on the original film. WHEN LADIES MEET was shot in black and white and runs 105 minutes.

WHEN LADIES MEET has been released on VHS. An unremastered copy has also been made available on DVD-R via the Warner Archive.

WHEN LADIES MEET can be seen on cable in the library of Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer on its website.


Blogger VP81955 said...

Intriguing review. I saw the original earlier this year when TCM showed a batch of Myrna films one night, and liked it. I'm generally cool to post-Code remakes of pre-Code films -- and like you I generally prefer Loy to Crawford (I judge an actress on how well she can do comedy, and Joan simply had no feel for it) -- but I'll have to give this a try the next time it's on.

8:12 AM  

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