This film, stylishly directed by Frank Borzage, finds Eleanor Boardman’s character trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of previous generations, just as she was in the previous year’s Wine of Youth. Kenneth B. Clarke’s script was based on W. Somerset Maugham’s successful stage play from 1921 so, it was very much a comedy of contemporary concerns.
Post war(s), with the century still young, generational politics were arguably broader and more entrenched than at any previous time… after all, there was so much freedom wasn’t there and, for some, the means to take advantage of it.
|Young Joan Crawford|
She takes the fateful step and abandons her husband and their son Arnold to follow her heart… Hard not to feel heartbroken those she leaves behind especially as Clive seems a decent – if distracted - sort.
|The family seat|
|Creighton Hale and Alec B. Francis|
But, aware of the family history, Elizabeth has arranged for Lady Catherine to visit in order to see what thirty years have done to her relationship: has true love endured or fermented into middle-aged bitterness?
Arnold is all a jitter having not seen his mother for so long and Elizabeth is anxious to know how her potential choices might pan out… neither has told Lord Clive…
|On their way...|
Then, stone me, Lord Clive has returned from hunting, deciding that he can get better shooting done at home. There’s a lovely confusion as the family try to rest his loaded shotgun from his hands… a foretaste of the anger that surely must about to be unleashed.
|Eleanor Boardman and Alec B. Francis|
Lady Catherine "Kitty" Cheney (Eugenie Besserer) and Lord Hugh "Hughie" Porteous (George Fawcett) duly arrive and before long start to pick holes… and argue… is this what has become of their pure passion?
Lord Clive takes it all in his stride as a game of bridge descends into bickering, Elizabeth is distraught and starts to worry that this is how she’ll end up. Teddy gets frustrated whilst Arnold grins on the side lines… but we’re sure young love will win out in the end… or will it?
It’s hard not to view Maugham’s tale as smart-Alec with its twists and deliberate turns and maybe things would have been more believable had it been Glynne playing Arnold instead of Hale. He has his moments but it’s difficult to credit his later change in character and, frankly, Elizabeth would have been unlikely to succumb to his new-found macho charms.
|George Fawcett and Eugenie Besserer|
Essential viewing for fans of Borzage and Boardman and for those who have to see more of the young woman who came to be the biggest star… After all, unlike the audiences of the time we all know exactly what Joan Crawford looked like thirty years later…
|Yes, well... it's not exactly post-feminist...|