Saturday, April 10, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Man of the World (1931) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

MAN OF THE WORLD (1931) is a pre-Code drama starring Carole Lombard and William Powell.

It's available on Blu-ray as part of the Carole Lombard Collection I from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. I've previously reviewed the other two films in the set, FAST AND LOOSE (1930) and NO MAN OF HER OWN (1932).

One of the things which makes this set interesting is that two of the films in the set team Lombard with her future husbands. NO MAN OF HER OWN costarred Clark Gable, the man Lombard would marry seven years after the film's release. They were married from 1939 until her untimely death in January 1942.

MAN OF THE WORLD stars William Powell in the title role. He and Lombard married a few months after the film was released, divorcing two years later, in 1933. However, they remained friendly and a few years after their divorce starred in the classic screwball comedy MY MAN GODFREY (1936).

In MAN OF THE WORLD Powell plays Michael Trevor, an American expatriate living in Paris. A former newspaperman, he is now a con artist of sorts who blackmails wealthy Americans, collecting money by pledging to "help" them keep their name out of a gossip sheet -- which he also secretly publishes. He's aided in his racket by Irene Harper (Wynne Gibson), who carries a torch for him, and Fred (George Chandler), who plays a variety of roles.

Lombard plays Mary Kendall, who is visiting Paris with her uncle (Guy Kibbee) and hometown sweetheart, Frank (Lawrence Gray). They meet when Michael targets her wealthy uncle, who is grateful for his "help."

With Frank away for a few days on business, Mary and Michael spend time together and fall in love. Michael confesses his sordid lifestyle to Mary and pledges to reform. She's steadfast in her love, but is a happy ending possible?

I first saw MAN OF THE WORLD on DVD in 2008, and at that time I wasn't very impressed with it, as noted in my original review. I found it too dreary and melancholy, describing it as being for Powell and Lombard completists only.

13 years later, I was pleased to discover that I enjoyed MAN OF THE WORLD much more. When I originally saw it I don't think the film was what I was expecting, but having seen hundreds of additional films in the intervening years, this time I think I was much more "tuned in" to the pre-Code milieu. Yes, it's a melancholy tale, but I found it absorbing and quite worthwhile on this viewing.

I also delighted in things like George Chandler having a substantial role as Powell and Gibson's fellow con artist, "the best American tour guide in Paris." In a career with over 450 credits, so often Chandler has very brief parts, playing nameless reporters and the like, so it was fun to see him in this; his character adds a touch of lightheartedness to the generally serious proceedings.

MAN OF THE WORLD is still the least of the three films in the set, but I found it a much more worthwhile experience on this viewing, which proves the value of circling back to films periodically and watching them in a new context. The story is played with elegance and sensitivity, runs a well-paced 74 minutes, and has a refreshingly "un-pat" ending.

The other two films in the collection are quite enjoyable, though, as noted in the review, Lombard only plays a supporting role in FAST AND LOOSE, which is a Miriam Hopkins vehicle. NO MAN OF HER OWN is a top-drawer pre-Code romance. Together, these three films provide excellent insight into Lombard's work in the early '30s.

MAN OF THE WORLD was written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, based on his own story. It was directed by Richard Wallace and Edward Goodman, with cinematography by Victor Milner.

The Blu-ray print and sound quality are quite good for a film of this vintage. I was particularly impressed with the clarity of the soundtrack, as often early sound films have what I describe as "mushy" dialogue or too much static. This soundtrack is quite crisp and easy to understand.

A commentary track by Samm Deighan is the lone Blu-ray extra.

Coming soon: Reviews from Kino Lorber's brand-new Carole Lombard Collection II, which features HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE (1935) and THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS (1936), both costarring Lombard with Fred MacMurray, and LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST (1936), also starring Preston Foster.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger barrylane said...

Had no intention of making this collection a new purchase, but I am sold, although heretofore I was only interested in No Man of Her Own, which is still the pack leader.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I would love to know what you think if you get it. I found the set much more worthwhile than I was perhaps expecting. Each film provides interesting viewing.

Looking forward very much to revisiting the three films in Vol. II which are all quite entertaining.

Best wishes,

7:00 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

I find it amazing that, after more than 60 years of watching all kinds of (mainly) American and British movies, I still discover actors or rather see them in a new light. I have come to a new appreciation of William Powell in recent times.
It all supports your notion of circling back to a film I believe, Laura, and it is so good to find classic-era Hollywood still surprising me.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry! I love everything you say here. Being able to still make discoveries after decades of viewing is such a wonderful thing.

What you say about William Powell reminds me of how I feel about Marlene Dietrich. I avoided her for years but in recent years I am seeing her differently and appreciating her. In particular, I went back to A FOREIGN AFFAIR after a decade or so and saw it in a completely different light. These new discoveries or seeing people in a new light is wonderful as it keeps giving us new things to watch!

Best wishes,

5:25 PM  

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