Sunday, September 17, 2023



Directed by
Leo McCarey
Written by Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown, Ray Henderson, Leo McCarey
Starring Gloria Swanson, Ben Lyon, Monroe Owsley, Barbara Kent, Arthur Kent, Maude Eburne
IMDB Entry

One thing about pre-code movies is their attitudes. Yes, they were willing to include sexual innuendo, but there were still attitudes that seem very old fashioned today. Indiscreet is based on a situation that was far less common these days than it was in 1931.

It starts where Gerry Trent (Gloria Swanson) is breaking up with her boyfriend Jim (Monroe Owsley) since he'd been seeing other women.* Some time later, she meets Tony Blake (Ben Lyon) author of the book Obey that Impulse. Tony practices what he preaches and asks her to marry him as soon as they meet. She falls in love but her aunt Kate (Maude Eburn) insists she tell him about Jim. Eventually she does, but Tony insists she not go into details or ever mention the man's name.

Jim returns from Europe, but now engaged to Gerry's sister Joan. Gerry warns Jim to stay away, but he refuses. He invites her to a house party, and, since Tony is away on business, she accepts. But Tony arrives early and goes to the party.

Of course, misunderstandings are rife.  Gerry decides to pretend to still love Jim, and have Joan see them together. Tony sees it, too, and goes to take a boat to France.

The movie is an odd mixture of comedy and drama. The ending is amusing as Gerry tries to board the boat without a ticket.

What is interesting are the attitudes. The fact that Gerry was engaged to Jim is considered a big enough scandal for it to be a major plot point. But it's not quite a double standard -- Tony hints that he may have been with other women, too. 

The ending is very dated. Gerry and Tony both get on the boat and he offers to pay her ticket. But there are no free cabins. He says she can be in his. Scandal! It's all fixed when they ask the captain to marry them so they can share quarters.** 

Gloria Swanson handles both the silliness and seriousness well. In certain scenes, you can see her silent-film-style acting, but overall, she handles the switch to talkies just fine. Her career had ups and downs after this but she was superb as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

Director Leo McCarey is known for his comedies, including helming Duck Soup, The Awful Truth, and Going My Way. Writers Desylva, Brown, and Henderson were a strong songwriting team, with hits like "The Best Things in Life are Free," "California Here I Come," and "Button Up Your Overcoat."


*One nice gag is just after she sends him off, she calls him back. No, it's not a change of mind -- she just wants him to take his golf clubs with him. 

**Of course, captains can't perform marriages, but this was a standard trope in old movies.

No comments: