Wednesday, October 23, 2013

George and Ann (AND Bette)

William Reynolds (George Brent) is an office worker in a high-power advertising firm.  He has a mundane job that he tolerates.  He also has a wife, Nan (Ann Dvorak) who thinks he deserves a better, more important job.  She suggests that he take an advertising campaign to his boss, an idea that was primarily Nan's.  Thus begins 1934's Housewife, a movie that wants to be precode, but doesn't quite make it.  Released in early August, the film may have originated before strict enforcement of the code; as a result, Housewife is rather a mishmash that doesn't quite ever gel.

One problem is, the film has not aged as well as it might.  Bill Reynolds is a bit of a dolt - he is selfish, and not really all that smart - though he thinks he is an advertising genius.  The brains in the family belong to Nan, and Bill has no clue in his utter self-absorption of how much he owes to her. You never see him come up with a good advertising campaign; Nan does them all. To publicize a product, Bill comes up with the idea of a radio show.  The "comedy" show is tasteless; Nan saves the day by suggesting a format change to a romance (since the company sells skin cream). Quite honestly, we wanted to take Bill by the scruff of the neck and throw him out with the trash. He is very reminiscent of Bill in Women are Like That, though Pat O'Brien's character is at least intelligent.

Why Nan wants him is beyond us. Because he is a big football player in high school?  Bill is openly unfaithful; he in facts flaunts his affair in his wife's face (and in front of her guests.)
John Halliday's Paul Duprey is a much more attractive character and obviously attracted to Nan; if she had any sense Nan would be with him.

We wondered how this particular film was received in 1934 - a quick look at the  New York Times shows that our reaction was about the same as that of the reviewer.  Bette Davis as Patricia never really quite seems comfortable with the character (again, why she would want Bill is a mystery).  We did enjoy the gowns by Orry-Kelly, who, as always, lives up to expectations. And Ruth Donnelly as Dora is a breath of fresh air.

So, while this is not really a pre-code film (this was released in August and the code was enforced beginning July 1, 1934),  there are no real repercussions for all the adultery that is going on. Here's a clip to give you a peek.

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