Monday, November 25, 2013

Barbara's Test Marriage

Back in January, our group watched Illicit, a fascinating precode with Barbara Stanwyck.   As part of the AFI tribute to Stanwyck, I was able to see it again, this time in a theatre.  As always, a big screen does make a difference in your viewing experience.

Stanwyck is Anne Vincent;  Anne is deeply in love with Dick Ives (James Rennie), but is terrified of marrying him.  Marriage, she believes, will destroy their love, just as it destroyed her parents' love for one another.  Though Dick is sure she is wrong, he is willing to continue their current arrangement (each has an apartment, but they visit overnight on a regular basis) until his father (Claude Gillingwater) reveals that their affair is the subject of gossip.  Anne agrees to marry, but within a couple of years, Anne is distressed to discover that her prediction has come true.  Dick is more concerned with being out with friends than with her.  And he has seemingly succumbed to the charms of his ex-girlfriend,  Margie True (Natalie Moorhead).  

The film is very careful to set up similar romantic situations for our hero and heroine.  Dick rejected Margie when he met Anne; Anne left Price Baines (Ricardo Cortez) for Dick.  Both exes are eager to win back their former love; but while Dick is easily led by Margie, Anne is not deceived at all by Price.  Try as he might, Price cannot get Anne to betray Dick, even after she knows that Dick has been seeing Margie.  In fact, Anne seems to find Price rather distasteful in his pursuit of her.  Stanwyck nearly cringes at his advances, and is quite prepared to throw him out of her home (and one suspects she could do it, too)  Both Margie and Price are vain, predatory individuals.  They don't so much love as seek to possess.  One can imagine that, once they win their battle, they will start seeking other prey.  Anne possibly is able to see this.  It takes Dick quite a long time to understand Margie.

Another couple (of sorts) is also thrown into the mix.  We have Charles Butterworth as the always inebriated Georgie, and his constant companion Helen "Duckie" Childers (Joan Blondell in a fairly small part). Where Georgie is a lush, "Duckie" (who does like to party) is sober, and is a good friend to Anne, while Georgie is busy gossiping about Anne and Dick.  Playing a society girl, Blondell still retains her brash appeal.  The good news is, she gets better clothing; the bad news is that she isn't on the screen often enough. 

This TCM article gives some picture of the critical reception of the film.  While some local censor boards banned the film, The New York Times was pleased with the story, giving the cast overall approval for their work. 

The film still has a great deal of appeal because it still seems so timely.  This trailer will give you a taste of this interesting movie:

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