Thursday, 24 August 2017

Movie Review: Ladies In Love (1936)


A romantic comedy drama, Ladies In Love features an overpowered cast struggling with an underpowered script.

Three women move into a Budapest apartment as roommates. all looking for a better life. The poor but bright Martha (Janet Gaynor) is trying to get the attention of scientist Rudi (Don Ameche), but he is too preoccupied with his rabbit experiments to notice. Martha turns her attention to worldly magician Sandor (Alan Mowbray). Chorus girl Susie (Loretta Young) is seeking independence but falls under the spell of handsome nobleman Karl (Tyrone Power).

Yoli (Constance Bennett), who is less of a believer in love and is more about seeking riches, is carrying on an apparently loveless affair with John (Paul Lukas), and old but wealthy man. Their relationship gets complicated with the arrival of perky temptress Marie (Simone Simon) to distract John. The women experience ups and downs as they navigate the choppy waters of uncertain relationships.

Twentieth Century Fox threw almost all their stars into one film, and while the talent occasionally sparkles, they are hamstrung by a lacklustre script. Endlessly talky, limited to one theme and eventually tiresome, Ladies In Love explores women's romantic ambitions but fails to find a genuine spark.

The film does deserve credit for demonstrating courage as it conjures up a bittersweet ending. Not all the romances have fairytale endings, and indeed Susie's story takes her to a dark and near-tragic place. But otherwise Ladies In Love is very much stuck in its era. The women have no life outside of their obsession with men. Every scene features the women either trying to snare a man or endlessly talking about the imperative or consequences of succeeding or failing in landing a partner.

The limp screenplay claims to be an adaptation of a play by a Ladislaus Bus-Fekete, one of many pseudonyms for screenwriter Leslie Bush-Fekete. If there ever was a play, it appears to have never been produced. Director Edward H. Griffith adds nothing to the film, and keeps the action largely stage bound. The presumed Budapest setting provides a context for the assembly of exotic target men, but is otherwise wasted.

The talent-rich cast members do their best to pull the film towards respectability, and ensure that although the words are uninspired, they are delivered with conviction. Janet Gaynor in particular shines as the spirited Martha. Loretta Young and Constance Bennett quickly provide clear differentiation in the women's personalities. Tyrone Power, Don Ameche and Alan Mowbray are prominent among the men, and provide distinct shades of male behaviour, ranging from suave to possessive.

Lacking laughs and liveliness, Ladies In Love is largely listless.






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