Sunday, April 7, 2013

Connie Marries the Elite

This week, we again join Constance Bennett in a precode film.  This one is Our Betters from 1933.  Connie is Lady Pearl Saunders Grayston.  We meet her as she has just married Lord Grayston (Alan Mowbray).  She is determined to be a good wife to him, though she is aware that their marriage was one of convenience - he needs her money to  support his lifestyle.  But Pearl finds almost immediately that her dreams of a life as a happy wife are naive.  Her husband has no intention of giving up his mistress.  

The film, taken from a play by W. Somerset Maugham,  produced by David O. Selznick, directed by George Cukor, and with music by Max Steiner is not a great one, but it is interesting.  Besides having some of the best behind-the-scenes talent in Hollywood, we have a fantastic performance by Bennett.  Her Pearl becomes a society hostess, but one who is jaded and cold. We also want to pay homage to the fantastic costuming of Hattie Carnegie - take a look at the stunning (and scandalous) black dress Ms. Bennett wears to a party - it's a knockout!

At one of her parties, we discover that she is planning to bring her sister, Bessie (Anita Louise) into the same lifestyle, by arranging her marriage to Lord Harry Bleane (Hugh Sinclair).  Though Bessie seems willing, it soon becomes clear that she really loves Fleming Harvey (Charles Starrett).  But everything begins to implode at a weekend outing to the Grayston estate, as we learn more about Pearl's rather seedy existence.  
 

Among the party guest are GIlbert Roland.  We enjoy him as an actor, but felt he was wasted here as the gigolo who pursues Pearl, but is involved with the wealthy Duchess Minnie.   We also discover that Pearl is essentially destitute, thanks to her husband's bad handling of her finances, so she is using her wiles to "borrow" money from Arthur Fenwick (Minor Watson).  

Much of our conversation focused on the bartering of American heiresses for English titles.  It is surprising that, in 1933 (this is a contemporary story), this was still going on.  We especially discussed the life of Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was literally imprisoned by her mother until she consented the Duke of Marlborough

Here is a clip from the film:

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