Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lady By Choice

I said that I wasn't going to do a full post on I Married a Witch because I had already planned to do a post on another movie. TCM is showing several Carole Lombard movies tomorrow, and one of the lesser-known of those movies is Lady By Choice, which is on at noon ET tomorrow.

Carole Lombard plays Alabam Lee, a fan dancer who is constantly getting in trouble with the law because the vice squad considers her act offensive. In court, she meets Patsy Patterson (May Robson), a chronic drunk who's ended up in court as often as Alabam, if not more, for drunk and disorderly behavior. Alabam's manager (Raymond Walburn) has a bright idea to help her image: Mothers' Day is coming up, and Alabam should "adopt" an old woman in order to make her look more serious and conscientious. Patsy has been sent to an old folks' home, and the two women, having already met, seem like perfect candidates for each other.

Alabam takes custody of Patsy, but things quickly turn serious, at least in the sense that what was originally intended as a public relations stunt becomes a real relationship. The two women become friends, and Patsy begins to look after Alabam like a mother, discovering that Alabam's manager is robbing her blind, getting the money back (well not quite; Patsy wins the money gambling), and trying to help Alabam become a serious entertainer by getting her acting and singing lessons. Alabam isn't exactly talented enough for this, though, and problems develop when Alabam falls for Patsy's lawyer Johnny (Roger Pryor). Patsy leaves Alabam and Alabam finds herself forced to return to her burlesque act, but seeing the sacrifice Alabam is willing to make, Patsy tries to devise a scheme to get Alabam and Johnny together after all....

Lady By Choice has a title that sounds like Lady For a Day, and the same actress playing both ladies. Indeed, Robson's Patsy acts a lot like Apple Annie from the earlier movie. And, Alabam is similar to Glenda Farrell's Missouri (and they both are named after states!) Another similarity is that both have Walter Connolly further down the cast list (Lady for a Day as Robson's presumptive in-law; Lady By Choice as the judge). So perhaps it's all those similarities that have caused Lady By Choice to be not so well remembered. After all, it's not the original. Having said that, Lady By Choice doesn't deserve to languish in relative obscurity. It's a pleasant enough movie, if not quite as good as the original. May Robson was good enough at playing these older women that she doesn't miss a beat, while Lombard had a great flair for comedy. Lady By Choice isn't available on DVD, however, so you're going to have to catch the rare TCM showing.

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