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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WHEN LADIES MEET (1941)

In a sexual roundelay that plays out like a double helix, Robert Taylor is the newly reformed bachelor who proposes to his long-time gal pal Joan Crawford. But she’s cooled down and now only has eyes for her smooth publisher, Herbert Marshall, a man who doesn’t let a wife interfere with his bedside manner. As luck and playwrighting convenience would have it, the wife (Greer Garson) & Taylor meet-cute at a dinner party, and hit it off in a platonic way. She’s even game for playing along with him to make Crawford jealous. Good thing these two ladies don’t know what they’ve got in common. It’s easy to see the possibilities in Rachel Crothers’ play, but the folks @ Warners VOD have opted for the remake of ‘41, rather than the ‘33 original which featured a far more promising cast: Myrna Loy, Ann Harding, Robert Montgomery & Frank Morgan in for Crawford, Garson, Taylor & Marshall. This is especially rough on the first half of the piece which tries for sparkling comedy, but lands with a thud. Nobody here knows how to throw a line away. It’s probably all too dated to work anyway, but the earlier film might at least be an interesting period piece. Here, everyone’s just insufferable. Yet, when Crothers drops the witty repartee and gives the ladies their big nighttime ‘bonding’ scene, opening their hearts to each other before discovering their guilty secret, you can feel how effective this might have been on stage. Rubbishy, but effective .

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Did it seem as obvious at the time as it does now that it’s the two ladies who should be getting together at the end? And was it intentional?

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