Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Living on Velvet (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Kay Francis and George Brent star in LIVING ON VELVET (1935), an enjoyable melodrama available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

This tale of a married couple's rocky relationship was directed by Frank Borzage, whose romantic sensibility is probably part of what makes the movie work, even if it gets a bit silly at times.

Brent has an atypically irresponsible role as Terry Parker, who as the movie begins is the sole survivor of an airplane crash which kills his parents (Samuel S. Hinds and Maude Turner Gordon) and sister (Martha Merrill). Terry is filled with guilt, having been the pilot, and he goes "off the grid" for years, drifting from job to job and engaging in harebrained antics which one suspects might be designed to get himself killed.

Back in the States, Terry visits his friend "Gibraltar" (Warren William) and promptly falls in love with Amy (Francis), the girl Gibraltar loves. Amy also loves Terry, so Gibraltar nobly stands aside and even provides the low-on-funds couple with a house in the country.

Amy marries Terry with her eyes wide open, but she makes the mistake of thinking that eventually her love and support will change him. When Amy realizes that Terry will continue to make poor choices and exclude her from important decisions, she retreats from the marriage, though she still loves him. Terry only begins to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee when he almost gets what he thinks he wants, death in an accident.

Brent so often is the essence of responsibility in his roles that it's rather a surprise watching him wreak havoc at an air show, insult Amy's elderly aunt, and spend thousands of dollars without telling his wife. He's not very likeable for much of the movie, even though his pain is understandable. Honestly, one almost wishes Amy would go back to the loyal Gibraltar, who's always there for her -- though perhaps Gibraltar needs to start to move on with his own life instead of providing so much support for Amy and Terry.

Francis is particularly lovely, doing her usual Francis-type role, suffering nobly in Orry-Kelly gowns. No matter how many times I see Francis in one of these parts, I always enjoy watching her. She had a rather unique place in screen history in the '30s, doing the same thing over and over -- but so enjoyably!

As annoying at Brent's character can be at times, there's also something very sweet and lovely about the Brent-Francis romance. One almost expects "Some Enchanted Evening" to start playing in the background when they first spot each other across the proverbial crowded room. There are some tender and amusing moments between the two which make the "down" moments in their relationship worth working through alongside them. I enjoy watching the movies they made together, and this one is no exception.

LIVING ON VELVET was filmed by Sid Hickox. Although IMDb says it runs 80 minutes, the DVD is 76 minutes long.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print. There are no extras.

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 Margot Shelby said...

I haven't seen this movie, but this sounds also like a very atypical role for Warren William, one of the best cads of pre-Code Hollywood. He always played the man you hate to love.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yes, that's true! Both Brent and William are cast against type in this film which was an interesting angle.

Best wishes,

9:12 AM  
Blogger Brittaney said...

I really enjoy Francis-Brent pairings and have not seen this one. My favorite of their films together is The Goose and the Gander. Unlike most classic film fans, I actually like George Brent and think he is a better (but not great) actor than he is given credit for.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Brittaney, I completely agree, Brent is way underrated. I've come to like him tremendously over the last several years.

THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER is great fun, have seen it a couple of times so far. :)

Best wishes,

9:53 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

It was initlaly scripted for the Brent character to die, which makes sense, but the studio determined othe rwise, which was toobad and created a contrived conclusion.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Oh, that's very interesting, Barrylane! Given how his character acted most of the movie, a less happy ending might have made more sense. Do you know if Amy originally went back to Gibraltar?

Best wishes,

3:04 PM  

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