THE LAST OF MRS CHEYNEY is for me the perfect example of how a first class cast cannot overcome a weak script.
Based on a 1920s play of the same name by Frederick Lonsdale, this 1937 film has three of MGM’s top stars, JOAN CRAWFORD, ROBERT MONTGOMERY and WILLIAM POWELL and a supporting cast including Jessie Ralph, Frank Morgan,Nigel Bruce, Benita Hume.
The first half hour of the film is set on an ocean liner bound for London. Joan seems to be a rich American who meets an unlikely trio of English Lords played by Montgomery, Bruce and Morgan.
Amazingly William Powell,pretending to be Joan’s butler, doesn’t appear in the film for the first 20 minutes and then disappears for much of the film!
There is a brief 5 minutes of interest, when they reach London and Joan takes up residence in a fancy apartment. We discover that her ‘staff’ are in fact her fellow criminals as she prepares to steal the jewels of countess Jessie Ralph.
It should have been a light,sophisticated comedy but there was no witty lines, just boring conversations and uninteresting characters .Joan looked beautiful in some gorgeous gowns and Robert Montgomery was his usual charming self.
As for William Powell, at this stage in his career, I can’t understand why he would accept what was a relatively small role.
Of the supporting characters, Benita Hume came off best as the wife of Nigel Bruce.
I wonder what the 1929 film version with Norma Shearer was like, or the 50s version, The Law and The Lady, with Greer Garson.
Robert Osborne, in his introduction recounted that director Richard Boleslawski died of a heart attack on the first day of filming. Then replacement director George Fitzmaurice took ill and the film was finally completed by Dorothy Arzner. So a difficult filming assignment.
Robert also said the original casting would have reunited William Powell and Myrna Loy, but when Joan Crawford didnt want to do PARNELL,Myrna was put into the Gable film instead.
I read that INA CLAIRE starred in the 1920s stage production. So maybe,at some point, this was a witty,sophisticated story.