As fair warning, spoilers lay ahead!
No More Ladies is a post-Code offering from MGM, starring Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery, Franchot Tone, Edna May Oliver and Charles Ruggles and it's strictly by the MGM book - lavishly attired leading lady, dashing leading men and glorious sets. Where it skimps is on plot line.
Joan stars as Marcia Townsend, a society girl whose life revolves around dating, fashionable wear and her terrible taste in men. Case in point: Sheridan Warren, better known as "Sherry" and played by Robert Montgomery, MGM's dependable cad in a nice suit. Marcia considers Sherry her number one boyfriend; Sherry considers Marcia Plan B, totally evident in the opening scene where he is due at 7 p.m. to take her to dinner and it's now 9 p.m. and Marcia has been stood up. Does she dump the irresponsible playboy? Nope! She buries her pride under the huge nightgown she changes into, slides into matching spiky heels and waits, alongside her grandmother (Oliver), for the jerk to show up. He does and, astoundingly, Marcia ends up apologizing to him for how she is acting. Feminists, time to uproar.
Marcia and Sherry dash off to a glitzy nightclub, where they drink, banter and mingle with friends like Sherry's perpetually drunk cousin Edgar (Ruggles) and the sensitive and caring Jim (Tone), whose ex-wife left him for (you guessed it) Sherry, who then managed to avoid marrying her. This "ability" is somehow projected as an admirable trait by the love blinded Marcia.
|Black tie and cold cuts always leads to a proposal|
Things unwind exactly like you think. Marcia is thrilled to be married, Sherry can't wait to break those vows. A particular enticement is Theresa, as played by Gail Patrick, a fling Sherry indulged in prior to his marriage and one he runs into again post-marriage. The fact that Theresa is with Edgar means little to Sherry; he lies to Marcia about where he is and spends the evening with Theresa, using Edgar as an excuse, not knowing that Edgar is with Marcia.
The two have it out but in a dignified manner. Sherry admits he lied but says he will come up with a better excuse next time; Marcia tells Sherry that he's decent because he comes clean. He wants to kiss and make up; in a rare display of backbone, she slaps him. (But of course, she then apologizes.) Marcia calls Theresa a tramp; Sherry says Theresa is no more a tramp than he is (probably the most honest thing he will ever say.)
|Oliver and her fabulous apartment are not buying Montgomery's act|
No More Ladies would have been great fun if it had been played as a screwball comedy but Crawford at the time was primarily put into romances and straight drama, thanks to the brains at MGM so Ladies is instead treated as a dramatic romance, much to its (and our) chagrin.
While Crawford is as lovely and enticing as always, and her attire and hairstyles are great fun to watch and note, Marcia is a one-note character and doesn't give Joan much to chew on.
As is the case with many MGM films of the period, Sherry gets a lightning bolt of revelation about how incredible Marcia is and resolves to mend his womanizing ways, while the put-upon, disrespected and cheated on Marcia mentally plays "Stand By Your Man" and is "rewarded" by "winning" her man. Uh, yeah. Let's check in with Marcia and Sherry in a year and see how long this new and improved Sherry will last.
And therein is the rub. We are supposed to root for Marcia and Sherry and be happy that she ends up with this loser. (Sorry, Robert Montgomery, but Sherry is a loser.) Why? Why? She is gorgeous and clearly wealthy, since she apparently doesn't do anything other than wait around for Sherry to show up. Even if she didn't have the marvelous Jim pining for her - - and she does - - why would she choose Sherry? There had to have been better options out there.
|Seriously insane collar|
Robert Montgomery was Robert Montgomery, and not in a bad way. He excelled at playing free wheeling and free drinking party boys; it's not his fault that Sherry is less palatable than characters he played in Forsaking All Others, Private Lives, The Divorcee and the like.
Edna May Oliver is a hoot as Fanny, Marcia's grandmother, and it's a shame she didn't have a larger part but she does get some zingers in.
Charles Ruggles is a lovable, laughable drunk . . . because, don't you know, alcoholics are funny?
Joan Fontaine makes her screen debut as Joan Burfield and playing Carrie, one of Sherry's many female conquests.
Vivienne Osborne is delightful as Jim's ex-wife Diana and Reginald Denny is terrific as her current spouse, whose British mumbling needs translation.
The sets of No More Ladies is what you expect from MGM of the period - - a smorgasbord of decadence, glitz and Art Deco beauty. Seeing them, along with the Adrian creations, is worth watching the film for alone.
All in all, No More Ladies is not a bad way to spend 80 minutes and it's an interesting look at how the high society of the time lived and wonder about the huge collars that were clearly in vogue.
No More Ladies is available on DVD and shown on a rare occasion on TCM.