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Thursday, October 2, 2008

MAN OF THE WORLD (1931)

William Powell & Carole Lombard made two mediocre films during their brief marriage, and a classic after their amicable divorce, MY MAN GODFREY/’36. Go figure. This early effort enjoys the tart romanticism of writer Herman J. Mankiewicz and has reasonably lively direction for 1931 from Richard Wallace, but few surprises. Powell is a Paris-based conman who dupes naive Yankee tourists by keeping scandalous personal tidbits out of the press. Easy for him, he’s also the publisher. Then he falls for the niece of one of his victims (Lombard, natch) and vows to ‘fess up’ and go straight. But Wynne Gibson, once his main squeeze, and still his partner in putting on the squeeze, wises Powell up to himself. Will he make the big sacrifice? Will Lombard believe his new act. (These plot mechanics are right out of LA TRAVIATA: Act Two!) Lombard wasn’t much of an actress in ‘31, and Powell hasn’t purged himself of his stage diction, but it’s easy enough to watch and has a pleasing share of Paramount’s continental manner.

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