My reaction to this early talkie was to wish it had been re-imagined in the 1940s as a film noir. All the ingredients are there – a spoilt rich girl who lands in jail and a district attorney who falls for her but prosecutes her anyway, and good scenes in court and in a women’s prison.
Claudette Colbert plays Lydia Thorne, a rich heiress who lives with her aunt, Emma Dunn .
Lydia lead a a hedonistic life style which eventually catches up with her.
For most of the movie, Claudette’s character is quite unlikeable, spoilt and selfish. She drives too fast and bribes highway cops to stop them giving her a penalty. Eventually she is responsible for the death of one of the motor cycle cops in a car chase and is charged with manslaughter.
Fredric March plays a hardworking prosecutor who proves Claudette’s guilt, even although he has fallen fo her. Being part of the rich set, Claudette can hardly believe she is going to prison.
Best line in the film comes in the prison setting when Claudette (as Lydia Thorne) meets her former maid, ‘Evans ‘. (No first name).
Claudette is surprised to see her , and the following dialogue expresses so perfectly that they are no longer employer and employee.
Claudette says, “Why, Evans !” and the maid replies, ‘Why, Thorne.”
( The maid has been convicted of stealing Claudette’s jewels for her boyfriend , and Claudette ( who isn’t too bothered about the theft) was supposed to appear at her trial and support her so the maid would get a shorter sentence. But Claudette simply forgets about the court date.)
Hilda Vaughan, as ‘Evans’, is only in a few scenes but conveys the character well – a plain looking woman who stole to try and keep her boyfriend from leaving her.
The film falls down in the last few minutes when Claudette has a sudden change of heart – throughout the film she vows vengeance on the lawyer who put her in jail, and then she realises she really loves him!
Claudette and Fredric are excellent in their respective roles.
I was interested to see that the film’s director was George Abbott who is best known for all the Broadway musicals he directed (The Pajama Game, What Lola Wants). He did a few films in the period 1929-1931.
The film is stretched out at just under 90 minutes. It could easily have been trimmed by about 20 minutes with better pacing.
Perhaps because of her striking platinum blonde hairstyle, Natalie Moorhead stood out in a small role as a friend of the heiress.
Uncredited as party guests were Bess Flowers, Frances Dee . Mary Gordon also appears briefly.
Louise Beavers, who would later re-unite with Claudette in “Imitation of Life” , has a small role as one the prison inmates.
Love this photo advertising the film outside the Kentucky cinema. COME IN! COOL OFF!
The car has a sign, “Advertising van, No.1” and is hauling the van advertising the film – and Westinghouse Electric Company. I imagine it would move from cinema to cinema as the film opened.