Last night I watched with great delight the wonderful pre-code film “The Divorcee”, with the brilliant actress Norma Shearer. For her outstanding performance in the female leading role, she earned a well-deserved Oscar.
I wish there were still actresses like Norma Shearer. But Norma is only one.
I have seen many of her films, such as “Idiot’s Delight”, “The Women”, and “Escape”. All different roles. She was good at playing comedies, dramas, romance, historical films (see “Marie Antoinette”). She was one of the top female icons at the MGM studios, along with such stars like Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Myrna Loy. She retired from acting in 1942, feeling that the war had changed the quality of the motion pictures. But we can still remember her in good, sometimes eccentric roles, like the one she played in “The Divorcee”. The film tells the story of two young lovers who get married, only to discover, after three years, that their love affairs from the past return into their lives, thus affecting their marriage. After getting a divorce and living apart from each other for a period of time, they realize that they still love each other enormously and they should get back together and live the happy moments again.
The film also has some dramatic scenes, which involve a car crash, a love triangle and a beautiful, scar-faced woman, a friend of the heroine. There are also some elegant scenes, with parties of the high society, and you will get to admire some nice dresses, too.
The film benefits from the stellar performances of Chester Morris, Conrad Nagel and Robert Montgomery. In the 82 minutes of length you will certainly be entertained by all these fine actors, matinee idols of the early 30’s, and, of course, you will notice the magnificent scenes of Norma Shearer.
Here is my video tribute to Norma and “The Divorcee”. Enjoy!
This is a review that I posted on the Conrad Veidt Forever website.
“Escape” – the screen version of the homonymous novel by Ethel Vance – was Conrad’s first talkie in Hollywood, and it was also the film that brought him the award for Best Acting from the National Board of Review. This was his first motion picture in which he played the iconic role of the cruel Nazi official. In “Escape” he embodies the General Kurt von Kolb, a man who tries to harmonize the political interests with his love for the Countess Ruby von Treck, played by the lovely Norma Shearer. But their lives are drastically changed when she helps and eventually falls for a young American named Preysing (Robert Taylor), whose mother was to be executed at the General’s orders. The plot of the film was already explained above, but what matters is that we see again the aristocratic and commanding attitude of Connie, who impresses the little ladies with his imposing stature and unforgettable monocle, but also with his wonderful stories and piano songs. There are many brilliant scenes in this great film of the talented Mervyn LeRoy, but the most interesting one is the fight between the Countess and the General, by the end of “Escape”. In the initial version (directed by LeRoy), the scene was very “noisy”, and both Conrad and Norma used physical violence so they should show one to another who is stronger. But in the final version (directed by George Cukor, who also cooperated in the filming of several additional scenes), he becomes her victim, as he suffers a heart attack while she reproaches him very harshly for being so wrong about the innocent people, who shouldn’t pay with their lives for the Nazis’ hatred. In the end, the Countess is stronger than the brave Nazi official, whose delicate health condition determines him to ask her not to live him – and, of course, she doesn’t. After all, what lady could have the heart to live such a special man like Connie alone?
Based on the homonymous Pulitzer winning play by Robert E. Sherwood, “Idiot’s Delight” is a magical movie. Norma Shearer is magical. Clark Gable is magical. The direction of Clarence Brown is stupendous. I was spellbound by the terrific acting of Norma Shearer, who plays the role of a very talented and versatile Russian actress, but who also enjoys telling many lies about her background. Clark Gable is her former partner in the vaudeville shows they used to perform in Omaha and, after several years, they get reunited in Poland. Owing to the fact that it was made in 1938 and released in 1939, when the entire world was preparing for the Second World War, this film had two alternate endings. A domestic ending, more optimistic, that was made for the American market, and another ending, adapted to the realities of war, for the international release. I saw both of them and I liked the international version, which is profoundly emotional. In “Idiot’s Delight” you also have the chance to see for the first and only time a musical number of Clark Gable, performing Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, which remains even today one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. And the role of Irene Fellara, played by Norma Shearer (who wears a blonde wig almost the entire film), was first offered to Greta Garbo (who turned it down), but there were other legendary actresses who eagerly wanted the part, including Joan Crawford. “Idiot’s Delight” was a success and it ended the wonderful partnership of Clark and Norma, after making other two great movies together, “A Free Soul” and “Strange Interlude”. I highly recommend “Idiot’s Delight” because you will certainly love the acting, the story, and the direction. A movie that could never be remade, and a real gem of MGM.
Cel mai frumos film exclusiv cu și despre femei a fost realizat în 1939 de marele regizor George Cukor (supranumit regizorul femeilor). Pelicula, intitulată pur și simplu „Femei” (The Women) s-a bucurat de un succes imens în rândul publicului feminin, desigur. Producția, ce are toate ingredientele cu specific hollywoodian (eleganță, strălucire, divertisment și multă frumusețe), reunește câteva dintre divele tuturor timpurilor – Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard și Joan Fontaine. Este o plăcere imensă când le vezi pe toate aceste femei minunate împrietenindu-se una cu cealaltă ori complotând una împotriva celeilalte. Povestea este cât se poate de simplă (chiar un clișeu al vieții cotidiene): o femeie înstărită, înșelată de soț și victimă a cancanurilor „prietenelor” ei. Bineînțeles că soțul nu apare niciodată în film, deoarece, așa cum am spus anterior, această producție este 100% feminină. Pelicula vă oferă ocazia de a urmări o prezentare de modă realizată color (căci filmul per ansamblu este alb-negru) și de a vă delecta cu dialogul inteligent și antrenant dintre superstarurile acelor vremuri de glorie pentru cea de-a șaptea artă. Cu alte cuvinte, un tribut adus femeilor din întreaga lume și un veritabil spectacol cinematografic, pe care nu aveți voie să îl ratați. Vizionare plăcută, doamnelor și domnișoarelor!