Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Film review "The Lonely Wives"

This isn't so much  a review as some random comments.

Edward Everett Horton plays a womanizer. I'll stop right there. This is the actor who invented the gay best friend role, so this was unusual for him. I was struck by how handsome he was as a young man though.

Anyway, it's a pre-code bedroom farce in which EEH uses a double to fill in for him so he can chase skirts and the double can stay home with the mother-in-law. Then, the wife shows up unexpectedly!

Shakespeare used lookalikes all the time and I'm sure the conceit preceded him by a few thousand years. I was just surprised to see it done (so well) in a film from 1931. It's a trick as old as film itself, long before Hayley Mills and Patty Duke were doing it. I wonder though, in this age of digital effects which film was the *last* to do it through film trickery.

It's all very stagey and for good reason, it was based on a play. It opens with a lot of clunky exposition. Most of the action takes place in the main living room where there are several doors, like in any stage farce. I look at films like this and think if I were to direct the remake, I'd take a couple scenes outside.

I also wonder if the script for the 30s play even exists anymore. Film historians have made a lot of noise about films that have been lost forever through disintegration of film stock. But what about Broadway scripts? What happens to them? Is there a big warehouse, or museum with scripts from the 1930s, once big hits, now forgotten?

Bottom line: It didn't age all that well, and a lot of the comedy was forced. Early in the film he's hitting on a secretary in his house, all the while the mother-in-law being in the next room. Everyone else knows she's going to walk in, why doesn't EEH?

The best line, the Margaret DuMontish mother-in-law upon seeing the maid kiss EEH: "I knew she was French, but I made allowances!"

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