Monday, September 26, 2011

Joan Gets Jilted

Based on a play which starred Tallulah Bankhead, Forsaking All Others (1934) is an absolutely delightful film.  With an exceptional cast, which includes Ms. Crawford, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, Billie Burke, and a brief appearance by Rosalind Russell; and a screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the viewer is given a delightful 84 minutes of great acting and witty dialogue.  Joan's Mary Clay is preparing for her long-anticipated wedding to her childhood friend Dillon Todd (Robert Montgomery).  The day before her wedding, unsuspecting Jeff Williams (Clark Gable) returns from Spain, with enough money to propose to Mary, whom he has loved since they were children.  His disappointment is palpable when he discovers he is too late, but rather than burden the ecstatic Mary, he agrees to give away the bride.  Come the day of the wedding, however, Mary learns that Dill has eloped with his former paramour Connie Barnes (Frances Drake).  Mary tries to start over without Dill, but when he renews his pursuit of her, she begins to succumb to his charms.

The script is just full of little bon mots, like "I saw [a fan dance] with electric fans once, it was awful" that keep you giggling through the movie, along with sight gags like Robert Montgomery sound asleep in a lacy nightie.  And you can't do better than this cast.  Gable is just commanding as Jeff.  He conveys so much by just LOOKING; all his hurt and love shine out of his eyes.  And Crawford was never more endearing.  Even when she is about to mess up her life totally by returning to Dill, you still adore her, and just want her find her way to Jeff.  Robert Montgomery, a versatile actor who played everything from the love interest, lunatic, war hero, and second banana, walks a very thin rope here. He manages to keep Dill appealing, while you still want him to lose the girl. A hard job, but Montgomery is more than up to the task.
Finally, a word about another performance: that of Billie Burke as Mary's dear friend, Paula. One is so used to seeing Ms. Burke as a ditz, that it is a pleasure to see her play someone with some sense.  Yes, Paula is still a bit of a nut, but she is sensible and loving. Her regard for Mary know no limitation, and she does everything in her power to protect this girl who is nearly her own child.

This film is not shown enough. It should be shown more.  Next time it is around, do see it.