Thursday, February 14, 2013

When Ladies Meet (1933)

I believe I have never blogged about When Ladies Meet before. It's airing tomorrow morning at 9:15 AM tomorrow on TCM, and I think is the only movie in tomorrow morning's lineup not to be on DVD.

Robert Montgomery plays Jimmie, a playboy/newspaperman who's part of high-class New York society, whom we first see crashing a party on a private yacht in the Hudson River. He's there to woo Mary (Myrna Loy), a similarly high-class woman, who writes novels for women about women. Mary, however, spurns Jimmie, because she's interested in her publisher, Rogers Woodruff (Frank Morgan). Rogers, however, is married to another woman. But Mary isn't about to let that stop her. She's a modern woman, and she believes that if a modern mistress meets a modern wife and lets the wife know the husband prefers the mistress, the modern wife will give up her husband of her own free will. Indeed, that's the whole point of Mary's latest novel! Jimmie unsurprisingly has the bright idea that art is imitating life, and decides to do something about it.

Mary has gone off to the country house of her friend Bridget (Alice Brady), one of the few people who knows about Mary's relationship. Indeed, the point of this weekend in the country is so that Mary can have some alone time with Rogers. Jimmie, for his part, still wants Mary, and has no intention of letting Mary wind up with Rogers. So Jimmie finds Rogers' wife Claire (Ann Harding), and asks her if she'd be willing to play a joke on the girl he loves: pretend to be interested in Jimmie so that Mary will get jealous. Of course, we know Jimmie's real plan, which is to get Mary to meet the wife whose husband she's trying to steal. The two women meet each other, each having no idea of the other's true identity. Naturally, they become friends at first, at least as much as two people who have just met can become friends -- but it's necessary to increase the tension for when the two finally find out the truth about each other, which you know is going to come soon enough.

Watching When Ladies Meet almost has a feel of watching kabuki theater. The plot seems artificial and strains credulity. Does anybody act in real life the way these characters do? Probably not, but all of the characters need to act the way they do in order to advance the plot to its inevitable climax when Mary and Claire discover each other's true identities. If you think about it, you'll probably get a headache from all the plot holes. When does Jimmie work, and more importantly, when the hell does he sleep? What kind of person would actually believe the drivel Mary writes about marriage? Has Claire ever suspected her husband of infidelity before?

I suppose I could go on. Try to avoid thinking to hard about the plot, and watch the movie for the performances, which are all pretty good. Robert Montgomery was always good at playing the charming playboy. Myrna Loy was still a year away from playing Nora Charles, and at this point in her career she was still playing quite a few "other" women and even villanious temptresses. Frank Morgan is probaby best remembered for playing the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, which is a bit of a shame since he was a pretty darn good supporting actor in a whole bunch of other movies including this one.

I'm surprised that When Ladies Meet has never gotten a DVD release, since it would be a good candidate for the Warner Archive Collection.

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