Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Ann Carver's Profession (1933)

ANN CARVER'S PROFESSION is an entertaining pre-Code melodrama distinguished by stylish cinematography and snappy editing.

Ann Carver (Fay Wray) graduates from law school and marries college football hero Bill Graham (Gene Raymond), an architect. After a stint as a homemaker, Ann begins practicing law and quickly achieves fame and fortune, which eventually causes some jealousy issues on the home front. Ann and Bill separate, but then Ann finds herself defending Bill from a murder charge...

It's all quite melodramatic -- and the death of Carole (Claire Dodd) has to be seen to be believed (she accidentally strangles herself?!) -- but it's crackling good fun. The editing by Maurice Wright doesn't waste a second of this 71-minute film. I particularly admired the editing of the sequence where Bill is charged with murder and then later the trial itself, a fast-paced montage of voices saying just a few words each. This film was produced by Columbia, which usually had small film budgets compared to the bigger studios, and they sure economized with that trial scene!

As in other pre-Code films like FEMALE (1933), MARY STEVENS, M.D. (1933), and DR. MONICA (1934), the message seems to be that a woman can reach the top of her profession but not simultaneously have a happy home life. By film's end, Ann and Bill have given up their swank apartment for a charming little house and Ann is once again a homemaker.

The film contains a jaw-dropping sequence which is disturbing to the modern viewer, in which a breach of promise suit hinges on whether or not a young man had reason to know that his girlfriend was "colored." Ann gets the man off the hook when she proves to the jury that it would have been impossible for him to know the truth, and thus the young lady's racial heritage renders her ineligible to win her suit. Parents who watch this film with younger viewers may wish to be prepared to use the movie as a "teachable moment" and explain how society has changed for the better in this regard; the film has value in that it provides a sad though fascinating window into the thinking of an earlier era.

ANN CARVER'S PROFESSION was one of 11 (!) films Fay Wray appeared in which were released in 1933. One of those 11 films was a little movie called...KING KONG, which would forever cement Wray's name in cinema lore. She is quite good in this as the confident, elegant Ann; as a side note, I love her precise diction. Raymond is pretty much his usual milquetoast self as the beleaguered husband. I've never quite gotten his appeal, but he's right for this part.

The excellent black and white cinematography is by Ted Tetzlaff, who constantly finds interesting ways to frame his scenes, whether it's the camera peering through the crook of someone's elbow or through windows. An interesting essay by David Bordwell, which I first linked to a few days ago, highlights some of Tetzlaff's camera compositions.

ANN CARVER'S PROFESSION was directed by Edward Buzzell from a script by Robert Riskin. Riskin wrote several Frank Capra movies and married Ann Carver herself, Fay Wray, in 1942. They had three children and were married until Riskin's death in 1955. Wray did not remarry until 1971, when she wed a brain surgeon. She passed away in 2004.

The supporting cast includes Claude Gillingwater, Arthur Pierson, and Jessie Ralph.

ANN CARVER'S PROFESSION has not had a DVD or VHS release, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.


Blogger Moira Finnie said...

Hi Laura,
I'm just stopping by to let you know that you have been awarded the Kreativ Blogger Award-the details are found here. (Please pardon the spelling, it came with the recognition like that). I love your writing and your enthusiasm. I learn more about crafting a post with precision and well crafted words each time I read your blog. Thank you for all your encouragement.

I liked "Ann Carver's Profession" though it made me slightly ill to see Fay Wray feeling uncomfortable because she had a brain. Then again that was one reason it is still an interesting film.
All the best,

1:09 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Moira, your kind words made my day! Thank you so much for this great compliment, I treasure it.

ANN CARVER certainly represents a different era in multiple ways, doesn't it? It was fascinating viewing.

Best wishes,

1:40 PM  
Blogger KC said...

11 movies in one year? I can't believe how much some of these contract players worked. It not only seems inhumane on the part of the studio, but nearly impossible for the players!

8:38 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

KC, it's amazing to think that Wray's output in 1933 was almost the equivalent of a new release every single month of the year!

Best wishes,

9:14 PM  
Blogger Anthony Crnkovich said...

Regarding "teachable moments", I'd have to say parents have much more to be concerned about in today's films than those made in the '30's, particularly in the areas of morality and language.

12:36 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I really was impressed by this film though the ending was a tad depressing if not too surprising. An early bit that was very well done was the camera panning through the diner kitchen door as we see the lovebirds kissing.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for stopping by, Joe! Glad you enjoyed it. I vaguely recall that scene...this is a film I'll be revisiting at some point.

Best wishes,

5:04 PM  

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