Saturday, 12 December 2020

Movie Review: Other Men's Women (1931)

A depression-era love triangle drama, Other Men's Women offers an intriguing supporting cast and good cinematography, but is otherwise dull and emotionally overcooked. 

Railwaymen Bill (Grant Withers) and Jack (Regis Toomey) have been best buddies for a long time. Bill likes to party and hangs out with waitress Marie (Joan Blondell), but is not ready settle down. Jack is married to Lily (Mary Astor), and brings Bill home to dry out after a night of hard drinking. Soon Bill and Lily fall in love, severely straining the friendship between the two men and leading to tragedy and sacrifice on the rail tracks.

Most notable for featuring James Cagney (as another rail buddy) and Joan Blondell in early roles, Other Men's Women also enjoys adventurous on-location cinematography by Barney McGill. Many scenes feature impressively mammoth freight trains and chugging engines, and director William A. Wellman makes excellent use of nighttime, heavy rain and spot lighting to create stark silhouettes, dark moods and a glistening aesthetic.

Unfortunately, the plot itself is bland and overclocked, with two charisma-challenged leading men in Grant Withers and Regis Toomey never registering much personality. Mary Astor's role as the subject of their affection is limited and she disappears for long stretches. The downward spiral of events triggered by illicit love accelerates from the silent treatment to a physical altercation then a life-changing injury and finally a catastrophic train event. Peter Berneis' script just barely avoids cramming locusts and the plague into the 71 minutes of running time.

Cagney makes the most of his few minutes of screen time, most memorably with an airy jig onto the dance floor, and Blondell fires off sassy retorts to railway men on the prowl. As it turns out, Other Men's Women is most interesting for the other man and other woman supporting the main players.



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