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EVELYN PRENTICE (director: William K. Howard; screenwriters: Lenore J. Coffee/Howard Emmett Rogers/based on the novel by W.E. Woodward; cinematographer: Charles G. Clarke; editor: Frank Hull; music: Oscar Raclin; cast: Myrna Loy (Evelyn Prentice), William Powell (John Prentice), Una Merkel (Amy Drexel), Harvey Stephens (Lawrence Kennard), Isabel Jewell (Judith Wilson), Rosalind Russell (Nancy Harrison), Edward Brophy (Eddie Delaney), Cora Sue Collins (Dorothy Prentice), Jessie Ralph (Mrs. Blake); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John W. Considine, Jr.; MGM; 1934)
“This is not one of the better pairings of the charismatic Loy and Powell duo.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Myrna Loy and William Powell are re-teamed as a husband and wife in this modest weepy woman’s pic that plays out as a courtroom melodrama. It’s based on the 1933 psychological novel by W. E. Woodward. William K. Howard (“Fire Over England “) directs and the screenplay is by Lenore J. Coffee and Howard Emmett Rogers.

William Powell is John Prentice, a prominent defense lawyer who is a workaholic and is never home for his wife Evelyn (Myrna Loy) and their young daughter Dorothy. John gets socialite Mrs. Nancy Harrison (Rosalind Russell, her film debut) off of a vehicular manslaughter charge. Meanwhile his bored loyal wife Evelyn is annoyed about being left home alone and goes out with her busybody best friend Amy Drexel (Una Merkel), and is approached in the nightclub with a corny pickup line by Larry Kennard (Harvey Stephens). The next day Evelyn receives a book of his poems, and the frisky Amy receives Larry’s phone call for Evelyn to have tea with him and accepts his invitation on her behalf. Evelyn’s pride is hurt as she suspects her hubby of having an affair, and reluctantly agrees to see the charming poet. When John goes by train to Boston for another case, Nancy surprises him by meeting him on the train. A watch inscribed “To Nancy, from John” is later returned to Evelyn with a note saying it was found on the Boston-bound train. John explains it as being planted there by Nancy to ruin his marriage. Meanwhile Evelyn, before she compromises herself, tells a drunken Larry she no longer wishes to see him, and he blackmails her for $15,000 threatening to reveal her innocent letters to her husband. In a panic, Evelyn grabs a gun from the desk and plugs him. At the same time the poet’s disgruntled longtime girlfriend Judith (Isabel Jewell) rushes in. But before Judith sees her, Evelyn rushes out the front door and returns home, planning to keep it a secret from John. However, she has a change of heart when she learns that Judith, who was found with the murder weapon in her hand, has been accused of killing Kennard and if convicted gets the electric chair. Evelyn convinces John to forgo their “so called get reacquainted again” trip to Europe in order to defend Judith. From Judith, John learns that Kennard kept a diary and was seeing the “wife of a prominent man.” While John’s investigators get hold of the gigolo’s diary, Evelyn frets that the innocent Judith will be convicted and makes a rash decision to come clean in court.

It leads to a surprise ending, that is hard to believe but works out well for both Evelyn and Judith. It shows the skills of John as a lawyer, but also shows how the story line is implausible.

This is not one of the better pairings of the charismatic Loy and Powell duo. It was remade as Stronger Than Desire (1939).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”