Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Evelyn Prentice

I've briefly mentioned the movie Eveyln Prentice before, but have never done a full blog post on it. It's airing at 4:15 PM ET today as part of the salute to Myrna Loy, and it's one of the few Loy films today that I have seen, so it's the one I'll recommend. (Note that TCM isn't doing a birthday tribute today; Loy's birthday is August 2, when TCM is normally doing Summer Under the Stars.)

Loy naturally plays a character named Evelyn Prentice, the wife of hotshot defense attorney John Prentice (William Powell). He's just won a case for socialite Nancy Harrison (Rosalind Russell) and in part because of how much time John has been spending working on his cases, Evelyn wonders whether or not he's been spending some of that time being less than faithful with her. One day at lunch, she meets poet Lawrence Kennard (Harvey Stephens), who charms her so much that she begins to think about meeting him again. That is, until she finds out that he's really just trying to get money out of her and has no compunctions about resorting to blackmail.

Evelyn goes to break off the relatoinship, but when she does, she gets blackmailed and the plot starts to go bad. In a convenient "accident" that we don't see, Evelyn kills Lawrence in a scuffle with a gun that Lawrence had in his desk. Lawrence's girlfriend showed up at the apartment just in time for the killing, giving a convenient defendant with alibi. And, John Prentice just conveniently winds up as the defense attorney (well, prodded by Evelyn's guilty conscience) and there's only one person who can prove the defendant's innocence -- and you know who that is, and why she's reluctant to reveal that she was a witness. Still, this being movie of the mid-30s (released several months after the Production Code crackdown really took off), you know that it's going to be wrapped up with a "happy" ending in which the true guilty party is revealed, and John and Evelyn are going to have some sort of reconciliation.

The acting is, for the most part, not the problem with the movie. William Powell and Myrna Loy are almost always good, and that's no different here. Rosalind Russell's role isn't all that big; the real second woman here is Una Merkel playing one of Evelyn's friends who unwittingly turns out to give her bad advice. Isabel Jewell plays Lawrence's girlfriend. As I said, the big problem is the plot, which even for a 30s movie makes me roll my eyes a lot. It's a shame, since Evelyn Prentice has such a good cast.

A few years back, a box set was released with a bunch of William Powell and Myrna Loy movies (I think they made eight movies not part of the "Thin Man" series), and Evelyn Prentice is part of that box set.

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