Friday, September 18, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Woman in Red (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Barbara Stanwyck stars in the melodrama THE WOMAN IN RED (1935), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Stanwyck plays Shelby, an equestrienne working for a wealthy widow, Nicko (Genevieve Tobin).

Shelby falls for Johnny (Gene Raymond), who plays polo with Nicko's backing; it's implied Johnny and Nicko are also having an affair.  When Johnny proposes to Shelby, the calculating Nicko is infuriated.

Shelby and Johnny quickly marry and struggle to set up their own business renovating and running some stables.  The kind Eugene (John Eldredge), another member of Nicko's social set, loans Shelby some of the money needed to back the venture, but she doesn't tell Johnny where she got it.  Shelby and Eugene have a platonic friendship, but that doesn't stop Nicko from gossiping about them.

Later, while Johnny is away, Shelby tries to repay Eugene's help by joining him on his yacht to help him entertain an important business client.  When a woman falls overboard and accidentally drowns, Eugene somehow sneaks Shelby off the yacht so that her name won't be tarnished by the incident...but then Eugene is charged with murder.  Should Shelby risk her marriage by disclosing she was present and testifying at the inquest?

This is a short and sweet 68-minute soap opera of the two-and-a-half star variety: It's nothing special, but thanks to the good cast it's an entertaining hour-plus of time.  Is Barbara Stanwyck ever not worth watching?

I like Gene Raymond well enough in light romantic comedies and musicals like WALKING ON AIR (1936), LOVE ON A BET (1936), and CROSS-COUNTRY ROMANCE (1940), but I find him less satisfying in melodramas such as this film or THE HOUSE ON 56TH STREET (1933); there's just something about "serious Gene Raymond" which is too bland and doesn't go over as well as the more good-natured romantic comedy version.  

This film has a nice part for John Eldredge, who frankly is more appealing than Raymond, to the point I rather wished he and Stanwyck would go off into the sunset together.  Earlier this year, incidentally, I had the honor of visiting Eldredge's final resting place in Corona del Mar, California.

Tobin is always fun to watch, and she has a ball here as a very wicked woman.  The supporting cast also includes Philip Reed, Bill Elliott, Doris Lloyd, Nella Walker, Claude Gillingwater, Russell Hicks, Dorothy Tree, and Forrester Harvey.  George Chandler can be spotted as a photographer in the courtroom scenes.

THE WOMAN IN RED was directed by Robert Florey and filmed by Sol Polito.  The script by Mary McCall Jr. and Peter Milne was based on the novel NORTH SHORE by Wallace Irwin.

THE WOMAN IN RED was first available from the Warner Archive a decade ago.  The DVD is one of the rougher-looking Warner Archive prints I've viewed, with numerous scratches and spots at some points, but otherwise it's quite watchable, with no jumps or skips.  The soundtrack has a bit of static but again serves the purpose.  There are no extras on the disc.

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.


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