Friday, February 27, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Smart Woman (1948)

SMART WOMAN (1948) is an enjoyable film meshing political intrigue, murder, and courtroom drama, performed by a fine cast.

SMART WOMAN was made for Constance Bennett Productions and released by Allied Artists. Bennett plays Paula Rogers, a prominent trial attorney who juggles a busy career with being the single parent of Rusty (Richard Lyon).

Special prosecutor Robert Larrimore (Brian Aherne) comes to town to investigate corruption swirling around D.A. Bradley Wayne (Otto Kruger). Paula goes up against Robert in the courtroom but despite their legal sparring, they find themselves attracted to one another.

However, life is complicated as Paula continues to respresent questionable clients and even do a little spying on Larrimore's investigation, as dictated by Wayne's political fixer-henchman Frank McCoy (Barry Sullivan). McCoy threatens to blackmail Paula if she doesn't cooperate; what is his hold over her?

SMART WOMAN provided a reunion for the appealing couple of Bennett and Aherne, who had costarred a decade previously in the screwball comedy MERRILY WE LIVE (1938). Here the subject matter is more serious, although Aherne and his assistant Sam Corkle (James Gleason) bring a light touch to the proceedings with their bantering. The dedicated but good-natured Larrimore seems to be just what the intense, stressed-out Paula needs in her life.

SMART WOMAN is a solid mid-range drama which provides 93 minutes of engrossing entertainment thanks to a very nice assemblage of onscreen talent. In addition to the previously named actors, Michael O'Shea plays Paula's reporter pal, whose habit of dropping into her apartment to eat provides a delightful bit of comedy at movie's end.

Selena Royle plays the D.A.'s concerned wife, with Isobel Elsom as Paula's flighty mother. John Litel is also on hand, assisting the special prosecutor.

Bennett's son is played by Richard Lyon, the son of Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels. Last year I reviewed another film in which he appeared, SECRET COMMAND (1944).

Look for Charles Lane as a reporter and Bess Flowers as a nightclub patron. The familiar faces also include Willie Best as a train porter and Edward Gargan as a police investigator. I wonder how many times each of those actors played that "type" in their careers?!

I also wondered if Gleason's character was given the unusual last name Corkle in tribute to Max Corkle, the character he played in HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941) and its sequel DOWN TO EARTH (1947).

SMART WOMAN was directed by Edward A. Blatt. Adela Rogers St. Johns was among those who worked on the story and screenplay. The movie was photographed in black and white by the great Stanley Cortez.

The only other film from Constance Bennett Productions was PARIS UNDERGROUND (1945). After SMART WOMAN Bennett would appear in just a handful of additional movies, along with several TV appearances.

Off the screen Bennett spent time organizing entertainment for the military as well as working on various business ventures. She had married an army colonel in 1946, a happy marriage which lasted until her death in 1965. Bennett's husband, John Coulter, ultimately became a brigadier general; he survived his wife by three decades. They are buried together at Arlington National Cemetery.

SMART WOMAN is available from the Warner Archive in a good-looking print. There are no extras.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

"Look for Charles Lane as a reporter and Bess Flowers as a nightclub patron."

If these two don't show up at every college reunion, cousin's wedding, co-worker's uncle's wake, and President's Day sale at the car dealership, it's always a huge disappointment for me. I just expect them to be there.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You and me both, Jacqueline! :) :)

Best wishes,

12:05 AM  

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