I usually don’t write about films I haven’t liked, but watching The Ex-Mrs. Bradford with two favourite stars, William Powell and Jean Arthur made me realise that if ever proof was needed that a good script is everything, this film is it.
It really is weird and wonderful how we all see films differently.
To some folk on IMDB, this film is “a sheer delight”, “has witty and sharp dialogue”.
For me, I found the flimsy plot boring and the comedy dialogue not very funny. And a real waste of the talent of the two stars who were at the height of their popularity.The plot, by James Edward Grant and Anthony Veiller, concerns the death of a jockey at the racetrack, with Powell and Arthur as an amicably divorced couple who investigate.
Powell is ‘Brad’ Bradford a surgeon and Jean is Paula Bradford, a wealthy mystery writer.
The supporting cast had little to do – Eric Blore as Brad’s butler, James Gleason as a police inspector ( James ‘s wife Lucille Gleason had a small role), Robert Armstrong as a bookie.
And a young Paul Fix in his early career when he was usually a gangster.
I was interested to read about the film’s director , Stephen Roberts who died at the age of 41 not long after the film’s release.
In 1935, Roberts had directed William Powell and Ginger Rogers in “Star of Midnight“ and Romance in Manhattan, with Ginger Rogers.
Roberts’ career had been mainly directing shorts in the 1920s. His first full length film ,Sky Bride was only 4 years earlier in 1932.
Among the ‘funny’ jokes; Jean trying to knock out the bad guy and ,on two occasions ( as if once wasn’t enough) , hitting William instead.
And here is some of the witty dialogue:
“I didn’t know you went in for opening safes, Doc.”
“Oh, we surgeons open anything.“
Paula: Did you inoculate him?
Brad: “With a little difficulty.”
Paula: ”Oh, I thought you used a hypodermic”.
According to IMDB, the film was very popular and very profitable for RKO. I was surprised that MGM lent William Powell to RKO and Columbia lent Jean Arthur.
Personally, I just felt cheated because I love both the stars and this film just wasted them. If anyone wants to disagree, please do!
Jean and William had previously appeared together in three films in 1929 and 1930.
Such a shame they didn’t get back together.
No doubt comparisons are made with this film and The Thin Man films because of the sleuthing comedy couple. Jean isn’t Myrna Loy ( and Myrna isn’t Jean Arthur). Both wonderful in their own way but The Ex Mrs. Bradford did Jean no favours – in my opinion of course!