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Forsaking All Others
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MGM. 82 minutes.
US release: 12/23/34.
VHS release: 6/24/92.
Warner Archive DVD release: 3/23/09.
Cast: Joan Crawford (as "Mary"), Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, Charles Butterworth, Billie Burke, Frances Drake, Rosalind Russell, Tom Rickets, Arthur Treacher, Greta Moyer.
Credits: From the play by Edward Barry Roberts and Frank Morgan Cavett. (Trivia: Tallulah Bankhead starred in the 1933 staging.) Screenplay: Joseph Mankiewicz. Producer: Bernard H. Hyman. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Camera: Gregg Toland and George Folsey. Costumes: Adrian. Editor: Tom Held.
Plot Summary: For 20 years, Jeff Williams (Clark Gable) has been in love with his childhood playmate Mary Clay (Joan Crawford). Alas, Jeff has never said as much, thus Mary becomes engaged to another childhood friend, Dill Todd (Robert Montgomery). Returning from a trip to Spain for the purpose of proposing to Mary, Jeff is taken aback when he learns of the impending marriage. Stout fellow that he is, however, he agrees to act as Dill's best man. Comes the day of the wedding, and Dill leaves Mary at the altar to run off with his mistress Connie (Frances Drake). Jeff stays behind to console Mary -- yet he still doesn't tell her how much he loves her. Small wonder, then, that a chastened Dill is able to rekindle his romance with Mary and plan a second ceremony. Disillusioned, Jeff is about to return to Spain, when at the last minute, comedy-relief Charles Butterworth tells Mary what's up with Jeff. "Suddenly everything is clear!" says Mary -- 84 minutes after the MGM lion introduced Forsaking All Others. Its plot absurdities aside, this star vehicle is splendidly glossy entertainment. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Louella Parsons in the Los Angeles Examiner
January 25, 1935
Forsaking All Others may not be Joan Crawford's greatest achievement, but at least it is her best performance since she became screen conscious. In many ways it's the Joan who used to delight us with her naturalness, her young beauty and her merry quips. I liked the comedy, and from the laughter that greeted some of the dialogue the patrons of Loew's State apparently agreed with me. Forsaking All Others is also playing at Grauman's Chinese.
Light, frothy, amusing, it's the
story of a girl who is jilted at the very altar. The lad who turns away
into another woman's waiting arms is Robert Montgomery. No one can be
as witty or more delightful than the naughty Bob. He succeeds in making
us understand why he walked out on Joan, who looks very lovely--and I
call that an achievement.
I don't know why MGM put Clark Gable into
this picture. He gives, it's true, a beautiful performance, and, as I
said, the picture is entertaining; but the part is hardly big enough
for Clark, who today is at the very top. He's the best friend of Joan,
and after much watchful waiting he finally succeeds in winning her away
from Bob--I mean after she has forgotten Bob's desertion and he has
divorced the vamp who carried him away.
Frances Drake, as that
siren, reveals unexpectedly ability. She is a worthy screen companion
for those three accomplished players, Joan,
Bob and Clark. In fact, in several instances she is a bold scene
stealer. Billie Burke, as the fluttery mother of Joan, again looks
absurdly young, and, as usual, is splendid in her light comedy moments.
As for Charles Butterworth, as Gable's close friend--well, he is
himself. What more can I say?"
While this society drama is hardly
up to W.S. Van Dyke's alley, he does a really great piece of directing.
Without him, it probably would have been deadly. He manages to get in
all the little touches that mean so much to a picture of this kind.
Forsaking All Others is a Bernie Hyman production, and, as I said,
while it's not a great picture, it's the kind that is entertaining and
amusing enough to offset its shortcomings.
In addition to the feature, there is a Fitzpatrick Traveltalk, Zeeland, the Hidden Paradise; Casting For Luck, the adventures of a cameraman, a Mickey Mouse cartoon and the Hearst Metrotone Newsreel.
On the performance end, it is one of Miss Crawford's best. She is believable throughout. That tongue-in-cheek moralizing which often marks many of her sagas is largely missing. This is just a semi-rowdy, semi-drawing room eternal triangle.
If you've seen Forsaking All Others and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Include, if you like, a picture of yourself to accompany your review, as well as a star-rating (with 5 stars the best) and any of your favorite lines from the film.
Michael Lia (October 2009)
Rating: of 5
One of my very favorites and for a lot of reasons: Clark Gable with that gleam in his eye. with his Charming charm. in the lucky role of “best friend” to the star: spunky and full of little nuances; fun to watch her pal around with Charles Butterworth (a fine man and a fine comedian). Frances Drake performing like a 40s femme fatale in a 30s script, wonderful in that gown that makes noise when she moves.
And the best for last -- !! Can you ever go wrong with her? I don’t care how she treated Marilyn Miller. She is a breath of flawless comedy and a character. Makes me happy and makes me sing watching her speak with that indelible voice and fluttery acting style.
Now for Miss Crawford: I like her, even with all that socialite lip gloss and Adrian standing on her shoulders. She is snappy and happy, of course because Billie Burke is her aunt and she has two men after her.
I am sorry for Miss Tallulah Bankhead that her Broadway run did not succeed; but this film version does succeed and it is a glittering show. Miss Crawford sparkles like any screwball comedy queen. And I can tell you none of those girls can part their hair like Miss Crawford.
Enjoy MGM at its best, showing off easily with some of its best. I can watch this movie and always be carefree and happy. (One last thing: Will somebody write a book about W.S. Van Dyke? The man is an artist.)
Mike O'Hanlon (December 2008)
Rating: of 5
[Warning: Review contains spoilers!]
We’re introduced to Mary Clay getting ready for her wedding tomorrow.. She’s getting beaten up by Bella, a masseuse who says that Mary is a “sucker to get married.” Aunt Paula’s the brains behind the whole ceremony. “Is this horrible mess the woman who’s about to be my bride?” Dill asks as he enters the room making a cocktail. Before Mary knows it, she’s stormed with all of her friends barging into her parlor.
Jeff calls Mary to tell her he’s in town. Jeff, Dill, and Mary grew up together, so Mary has some big news to tell Jeff regarding her plans to marry her . Jeff’s physical actions---bumping into people left and right, clumsily picking up flowers and balloons for Mary---I guess are to be funny. Anyway, the guy has returned from Spain to ask her to marry him. Little does he know the surprise that’s in for him.
There’s screaming and shouting all over the place as Jeff enters Mary’s home. Everyone is excited to see him, especially Dill, who wants Jeff to give Mary away to him, though he’s clearly upset over the situation. No one seems to notice. When he’s alone with someone he can trust, Shemp, Jeff picks up a picture of the three of them when they were kids. “It was the same thing then,” Jeff says. “I pumped all the tires on that bicycle but Dill did all the riding.”
The photo is a real crack-up. Seriously. It’s clearly a picture of three pre-teens with the faces of Gable, Montgomery, and Crawford pasted on. It’s Photoshop circa 1934.
Soon the men are off to the bachelor party, and, when Jeff goes into the closet to get his hat, Mary is in there hiding. It’s a great moment to watch Rob and Joan pretend to love each other when, in reality, they hated each other so much.
Dill’s a funny guy, but he can’t stay sexually involved with just one woman. Connie, his physical lover on the side, approaches him as he is---of all things---coming out of the shower. The two sit down to have a drink, among other things.
Following the bachelor party---one which Dill did not attend---Jeff and Shemp are awoken by a livid hotel manager who discovers that two floors of his hotel were ruined by the fire hose stretched to their room and running over the bed they're sharing. Don’t ask. It’s 1930s slapstick.
On the day of the wedding, Mary is in awe of the beautiful cornflowers surrounding her as she prepares. She thinks they're from Dill, but they're really from Jeff, who remembers that she loved them as a girl. Because of his inability to commit himself to one woman, Dill is nowhere to be found when the wedding begins.
Jeff gets a telegram from Dill saying that he has married Connie, and that he extends his apologies to Mary.
Sometime later, Mary and Aunt Paula have made their home in a beautiful countryside cabin. When Jeff comes, he and Mary sit beside a fire and go through the mail. One is a gas bill for---$35! Another is an invitation from Connie and Dillon Todd about a party they are throwing to celebrate their union. Mary tells Jeff that they’re going to that party “and we’re going to have the time of our lives!”
When Mary and Connie meet at the party, they exchange obviously fake welcomes, and Mary gets her good when she says that everyone assumed that Connie and Dill were already married---since it was clear they were sexually involved because Connie’s a cheap little tramp. Dill gets Connie aside and scolds her for being so rude to Mary---asking her to come to a wedding to celebrate the union of the man who left her on her wedding day.
“She came here because she’s everything your wife is not, is that it?” Connie asks.
“You said it,” Dill responds. “I didn’t.”
Even on the way home, Mary still tries to hold herself together; that she doesn’t love Dill. But it’s an obvious lie. She breaks down and cries while Jeff comforts her. A few days later, Dill calls to confirm her plans to see Dill. Jeff’s annoyed. Though the two men are friends, Mary has kept them at a distance ever since they were kids. Jeff begins to fight with her about it; she slaps him, then he bends her over and spanks her with a hairbrush.
Dill and Mary stop at a stand for some burgers, fries, and ciders. A car wreck leaves the two stranded in the countryside. Rain traps them in some abandoned house with no lights or signs of any residents. But typical of old movies, there’s enough for them to get comfortable---clothes, some food, tools for fire, etc. When they get to talking, Dill admits that he purposely told help not to come until tomorrow morning. She tells him how stupid it is, since he’s legally married to another woman and this is a post-code movie.
To save her niece’s honor, Aunt Paula calls Jeff and asks him to drive out to the house to save Mary’s honor. He refuses and slams the phone, and is next seen, of course, in the back of a car with Paula and Shemp ready to rescue Mary.
When Mary gets a private moment with Jeff, she thanks him for helping her realize that she never wanted Dill as a husband in the first place. As they’re talking, Connie pulls up. After much chaos, Connie agrees to divorce Dill, and we’re back to watching Mary get a massage from Bella.
Before he leaves for Spain, Jeff confesses that Mary will always be the woman he loves. He’s always loved her, and always will, but if she’s going to marry Dill, it’s for the best that they never see each other again. Right before he leaves for good, his plans are cancelled because he and Mary will be married and start their new life together.
This is one of those loveable, but frustrating comedies of the mid 1930s. With It Happened One Night and The Thin Man drawing in long lines at the box office, studios decided that the melodramatic women’s stories were a thing of the past. With censorship in full bloom after July 1, 1934, stories about prostitutes and scandalous ladies could no longer be produced. It was a smart business move from the studios, but it hampered the careers of many great female stars. Joan Crawford’s was among them.
Of the performances, however, Crawford’s reigns supreme of the top-billed three. She tries a little too hard in the opening scene where she’s being massaged, and that false speech of hers can be a little annoying, but she’s far more realistic than the clumsily over-the-top Clark Gable. Even the way he spits his lines out comes off as phony, and the same problem goes for Robert Montgomery, who almost acts like he’s trying to portray a college frat boy.
I’ll give them leeway, though. Their parts aren’t much.
Rosalind Russell is more natural with her comedic skills in this one. She’s a pleasure to watch, as is Frances Drake as the cheap tramp who steals Montgomery from Crawford on their wedding day.
Forsaking All Others is the movie that represents the drastic change in movies which were currently being filmed as the Code went into full effect. There was a struggle back and forth between MGM and director W.S. Van Dyke and Joseph Breen and his group of hypocritical Catholic censors. When the studio and Van Dyke ignored Breen’s suggestion of cuts, he retaliated by telling them they could either cut the suggested scenes or shelve the movie altogether. It wouldn’t be shown as is, particularly the relationship between the characters portrayed by Montgomery and Frances Drake.
Van Dyke refused to film the retakes, and Richard Boleslavsky was the one who had to go in there behind the camera and clean up the movie. “We redid a lot of Crawford’s close-ups, too,” cinematographer George Folsey remembered. “We were always going in there and reshooting things that Van Dyke rushed right through.”
Clearly the retakes of Joan Crawford’s close-ups worked well. She’s beautifully photographed throughout the entire movie. But her close-ups are done well in simple lighting, none of that over-exaggerated lighting which was often used for .
No matter how dated the comedy may be today, Forsaking All Others was a huge success within its initial release. Warner Brothers responded by producing The Goose and the Gander (1935) with Kay Francis and George Brent, which had honest Francis trying to expose her ex-husband’s new wife for the adulteress she really is. Of the two, Goose and the Gander is the better movie, largely because it’s box office fluff which wastes no time.
That’s the unfortunate side of many of Joan Crawford’s movies of this era. They run too long, with too many unimportant asides. Their box office fluff stretched to about an hour and a half when they could have easily been cut down to no longer than seventy-five minutes. Not that it’s her fault, though. She, Montgomery, and even Gable deserved material much better than this.
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