Monday, November 3, 2014

Fay's a Lawyer

Sometimes watching a film so firmly set in its own time can be almost painful for a modern audience.  Such is the case with Ann Carver's Profession (1933).  Fay Wray plays Ann Carver, who has married her college sweetheart, "Lightning" Bill Graham (Gene Raymond) after both have worked their way through advance degrees - he as an architect, she as a lawyer.  Though Bill was a football hero in college, the real world places him into an architectural firm, where he gets to do the scutwork for very little money.  Ann has been unable to even find a job.  She's frustrated and Bill is eager to help her find a position.  So, when an evening arises in which he can sing his wife's praises to the head of a law firm, he does so, and Ann takes it from there, providing some advice that results in the firm's winning an important case.  Ann is on her way.

It's at this point that film becomes annoying.  There is no middle of the road for Ann.  As a successful lawyer she is selfish, rude, smug, and an all-around heel.  She becomes the stereotypical career woman - a man-eating viper who cares for nothing but her success.  SHE purchases a large house.  SHE hires many servants (why does a young married couple need a maid, cook, and butler anyway?) - Bill is not consulted.  After all, SHE controls the purse strings.  When she is forced away on business, Bill can't pay the staff - he has no access to HER funds.  All in all, he is humiliated in every way, and Ann, of course, is oblivious to his needs.  HER job comes first, especially since she is the big wage earner.

The biggest problem with the character of Ann is that she is so exaggerated. Her shift from frustrated housewife to power lawyer is dramatic and unrealistic.  This basically nice woman becomes a harridan for no real reason,other than absolute power corrupting absolutely.  It doesn't help that her rise to fame is so unrealistic - within a few weeks of being hired, she is a headline-making, major player in her law firm.   
Of course, this is a precode film, so we have a scene with Ann and Bill snuggling in their big double bed.  There is also Bill's "relationship" with Carole Rogers (Claire Dodd).  The consensus among our group was that there was a brief fling between the two;  however, Bill is ultimately disgusted with Carole's drunkenness and lewdness.  In spite of the affair, it's still hard to work up much sympathy for Ann.  She treats Bill as an appendage - someone to bring her to important work-related dinners - not as a husband.  Appearance is all that matters to her, and when Bill decides a career change will bring him more money, Ann is horrified - what will people think of HER with a "crooner" as a husband? 

We suspect not a lot of attention was paid to Ann Carver's Profession, as it was released the same year as another film starring Ms. Wray - King Kong.  She had already ventured into the land of horror that year (with The Vampire Bat and Mystery of the Wax Museum), but with the popularity of Kong, Ms. Wray became a staple in the genre, and was often called The Queen of Scream. 

Regardless, she had a long career - she appeared in films and on television as late as 1980.  Interestingly, she would marry the screenwriter for Ann Carver's Profession, Robert Riskin, in 1942.  They had two children and were together until his death in 1955.  Fay Wray died in 2004, at the age of 96.  

We'll close with a clip from the 1998 Oscars with Billy Crystal. A tribute to King Kong was part of the entertainment that evening, and Mr. Crystal surprised Fay Wray by introducing her from the audience.  

Oh, and Ruthelma Stevens was barely findable as a party guest.  A shame really...