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EX-LADY (director: Robert Florey; screenwriters: David Boehm/story by Edith Fitzgerald & Robert Riskin; cinematographer: Tony Gaudio; editor: Harold McLernon ; music: Leo F. Forbstein; cast: Bette Davis (Helen Bauer), Frank McHugh (Hugo Van Hugh), Gene Raymond (Don Peterson), Monroe Owsley (Nick Malvyn), Claire Dodd (Iris Van Hugh), Kay Strozzi (Peggy Smith), Ferdinand Gottschalk (Mr. Herbert Smith), Alphonse Ethier (Adolph, the Father); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; Warner Archive Collection; 1933)
“Bette Davis’ first starring role.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Florey(“The House on 56th Street”/”God Is My Co-Pilot”/”The Beast With Five Fingers”) directs this contemporary realistic romantic drama about a progressive lady artist who spurns the idea of marriage, but in the end returns to being conventional when she falls in love. It’s mildly shocking for back in the pre-Code days. Its controversial take on marriage gave rise to the League of Decency, a group of censors. This is Bette Davis’ first starring role. It was previously filmed in 1931 as Illicit. It’s based on the story by Edith Fitzgerald & Robert Riskin, and is written by David Boehm.

The attractive, successful, free-spirited feminist illustrator Helen Bauer (Bette Davis) resides in NYC and is obsessed with her career and living a glamorous life-style. Under pressure from her conventional immigrant father Adolph (Alphonse Ethier), Helen agrees to marry her advertising executive boyfriend Don Peterson (Gene Raymond) and become his business partner. When Helen discovers that hubby is having an affair with her married friend Peggy (Kay Strozzi), she arranges to live separately from hubby as lovers. When Don discovers that Helen is dating his business rival, the playboy Nick Malvyn (Monroe Owsley), he gets jealous and retreats to Peggy. This incident brings the distraught couple back together to decide how they wish to honor their marriage contract since they both love each other but hate being confined by conventional rules. They decide, since they both love each other, it’s best to live by the rules of a conventional marriage and move back together.

The pic must be doing something right, if even this mild satire of a modern marriage should get the ire of the hypocritical censors.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”