Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Now Playing: "No More Ladies" (1935)



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
Marcia takes a page from that horrible book "The Rules" and runs off with a clunkhead named Duffy (in Sherry's car, no less).  According to Edgar, she and Duffy are "taking a ride," a sly euphemism for some hanky panky.  While nothing happens with Duffy, Marcia's actions have the desired effect on Sherry, who is jealous (and who should be more than a little pissed that his car was taken) and ends up talking marriage with her.  Have there be any worse ideas?  It's clear why Marcia would enter into this ill-advised union - - she believes some legality might reform her bad boy - - but it's less obvious why a player like Sherry would agree.

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
Marcia throws a house party, inviting not only Jim's ex (and Sherry's) Diana but also Theresa, as well as a bunch of extras.  During a rowdy party of charades, she and Jim run off to "go for a drive."  They are gone all night but nothing happens because Marcia is a good girl and she's in love with Sherry.  Of course Sherry has to pout and be an ass about everything because he assumes that Marcia was doing what he's been up to and while that's fine for him, it's certainly not fine for his wife.  All is made well by the relatively quick end (only 80 minutes, folks) once he learns that he is the only cheater in the family.

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.

If only
Despite having the underused and underappreciated Tone in the cast, there is no real triangle, which is a tragedy.  That leads to the greatest failing of the film -- - why on earth Marcia would choose a drunk cad like Sherry over the thoughtful and responsible (and hot) Jim.  Sherry treats her without respect before marrying her and is eyeing other women on their honeymoon.  Marcia, get a clue, girl.  If he can't keep it in his pants for the week or so following your nuptials, this isn't going to end well for you.  (Not in the real world, at least.) 

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
All that said, I still enjoy No More Ladies.  It's true I'm an unapologetic Crawford fan and treasure every film appearance of hers and while this is not one of her stronger outings, it's still a joy to see the young and sexy Crawford two decades before the 1950s hardened and made her masculine.  She appears in a plethora of Adrian gowns, with some of the largest collars imaginable, and a variety of hairstyles, if you're so inclined.

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?

Dreamy
Franchot Tone is gorgeous and underused; sadly, this summed up his time at MGM in general.  He is clearly my choice for what man to choose in this film (and many others.)  There is some satisfaction in knowing that he was Joan's squeeze off set (and soon to be her Mr.)  Joan was no fool.

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.
 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sunday Funday: Monday Edition - Life's a Beach (Supersized)

Happy Labor Day, readers!

As the unofficial last weekend of summer, enjoy these snaps of classic stars by, or on, the water.

Which star and/or shot is your favorite?

AGNES FRANEY AND MYRNA LOY

ALICE WHITE

AVA GARDNER

BETTE DAVIS

BETTY GRABLE

BRIGITTE BARDOT

BURT LANCASTER

BUSTER KEATON


CARY GRANT

CHARLES FERRELL

CLARA BOW

CONSTANCE BENNETT

DEBBIE REYNOLDS

DEBORAH KERR

DOLORES DEL RIO

DORIS DAY

DOROTHY LAMOUR


ESTELLE TAYLOR

ESTHER WILLIAMS

GINGER ROGERS

GRACE KELLY

GREGORY PECK

INGER STEVENS

JANE POWELL AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR

JANE RUSSELL

JOAN CRAWFORD AND DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR.

JOAN MARSH AND  MARY CARLISLE

LANA TURNER

LOUISE BROOKS AND SALLY BLANE

MABEL NORMAND  

MARIE WILSON

MARILYN MONROE

MARLENE DIETRICH AND HER DAUGHTER MARIA

MONTGOMERY CLIFT

NATALIE WOOD AND HUGH O'BRIAN

NORMA SHEARER

PAULETTE GODDARD

RITA HAYWORTH

ROBERT MITCHUM

SANDRA DEE

SHIRLEY TEMPLE

VERA ELLEN

ANN MILLER

AUDREY HEPBURN

BARBARA STANWYCK

HUMPHREY BOGART AND LAUREN BACALL

BURT LANCASTER AND DEBORAH KERR

CAROL HUGHES, MARIE WILSON AND JUNE TRAVIS

CATHERINE DENEUEVE

CLINT EASTWOOD

CORNEL WILDE

ELEANOR POWELL

ELKE SOMMER

ERROL FLYNN

FRANCES DEE AND JOEL MCCREA

GAIL RUSSELL

GENE KELLY

GLORIA SWANSON AND MARIE PREVOST

BETTY GRABLE, BUSTER CRABBE AND ELEANORE WHITNEY

ALFRED HITCHCOCK

HUGH O'BRIAN

JAMES CAGNEY AND MARY BRIAN

JANET BLAIR

JAYNE MANSFIELD

JEAN HARLOW

JOANNE WOODWARD

JOHN LENNON AND GEORGE HARRISON

LIZABETH SCOTT

LORETTA YOUNG

LOUIS JOURDAN

MARIAN MARSH

MARY MARTIN AND ROBERT PRESTON

MARY NOLAN

MAURICE CHEVALIER

MARILYN MONROE AND CLARK GABLE

PAUL NEWMAN

PETER LAWFORD AND VERA ELLEN

PIER ANGELI

ROBERT CUMMINGS 


ROCK HUDSON

ROY ROGERS 

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

SEAN CONNERY

SHARON TATE

TAB HUNTER

TONY CURTIS

TUESDAY WELD
CAROLE LOMBARD AND WILLIAM POWELL