Friday 14 December 2007

Virtue (1932) Edward Buzzell

Carole Lombard and Pat O'Brien would seem to be a decent screen partnership, and there are great scenes even though the whole thing doesn't spark as well as it could. As we begin Lombard is being packed onto a train to get her sent out of New York, which she completely fails to do, and O'Brien is teaching his roommate Ward Bond about the realities of women. They meet soon enough. Lombard's character, a streetwise girl called Mae, catches a ride in Jimmy Doyle's cab and does a runner to avoid paying the fare. She pays him back the next day and through a great argument end up a memorable item.

He has a one track mind, keeping on about how marriage is a death sentence for a man and how as soon as a woman has you under her thumb you're lost, and the rest of it. Naturally Mae and Jimmy soon become Mr & Mrs Doyle, but after a quick honeymoon at Coney Island her past comes back to haunt her. They patch up but till have hurdles ahead of them to get past that knowledge. We soon get plenty of specific hurdles, with a con artist, a couple of hundred bucks and a murder leaping into the fray.

Pat O'Brien is a little loud and obnoxious here, but then he's playing a New York City cab driver so we really can't complain. Ward Bond is a slightly dumb but decent friend, which he could play in his sleep. Carole Lombard is good but not great and I think she'd be better just a few years later. Jack La Rue is a low life hood, as he pretty much always was during the thirties, and Mayo Methot shows some depth as his moll. The direction is good and the writing is better, but somehow it doesn't seem to shine. It's a pre-code after all, and there was so much potential to make more mileage out of the title and the subplots that involve it.

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