Monday, July 15, 2013

Connie Talks to Herself

Venice Muir (Constance Bennett) is a wealthy young woman. Her parents are dead; she is quite alone in the world.  Much as she wants to meet someone, she can't seem to get a man interested in her.  The men in her circle are much more attracted to the merry widow who was suspected of poisoning her husband.  Finally, Venice meets a man who seems to be interested in her.  Donnie Wainwright (David Manners) gets a bit inebriated, and proposes.  He asks Venice to travel to Europe with him, and marry him on the ship. But morning brings sobriety and a better offer from the widow, and Venice finds herself alone, bound for Europe. Once there, Venice decides to change her image - she hires a young man (Ben Lyon as Guy Bryson) to pose as a gigolo, and finds that men are now pursuing HER.  Thus begins Lady with a Past (1932), a pre-code film which puts forth the premise that men don't make passes at good girls.

Constance Bennett is fantastic here.  Her Venice is sweet, kind, and innocent of the ways of the world.  But she has a great sense of humor, especially about herself.  She is alone so much, she finds that she spends a lot of time talking to herself. "I talk so much to myself that I'm all worn out when I meet people", she bemoans. Yet, she retains her sense of humor, in spite of feeling that she is inferior to everyone else.

While David Manners makes an interesting object of Venice's affection, the character that was by far the most interesting is Guy Bryson.  He, like Venice, has a wicked sense of humor.  And he genuinely likes her.  Though she is paying him, it is evident that he is there because he likes her and wants to help her. In the clip below, we are introduced to Guy;  we rather hoped that he was the man of Venice's dreams. He is a sweetie who doesn't "even mind that she is a good girl".

A TCM article which discusses this film is well worth a read. Especially interesting is the review that is included, in which the reviewer says that Bennett's Venice "gives hope to shy bookworms everywhere".   We heartily recommend this under-appreciated little gem. 

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