(director: Sam Wood; screenwriters: John Meehan/from the play by Alexandre Bisson; cinematographer: John Seitz; editor: Frank E. Hull; music: David Snell; cast: Gladys George (Jacqueline Fleuriot aka Mame X), Phillip Reed (Jean Rochin), Warren William (Bernard Fleuriot), John Beal (Raymond Fleuriot), Reginald Owen (Maurice Dourel), William Henry (Hugh Fariman, Jr.), Henry Daniell (Lerocle), Ruth Hussey (Annette), Lynne Carver (Helene), Luis Alberni (Scipio), George Zucco (Dr. La Farge); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: James Kevin McGuinness; MGM; 1937)
“This faithful version stars stage and screen actress Gladys George, who gives an effective performance.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The dated Alexandre Bisson’s 1908 French play of a mother’s love and sacrifices, is a play that has enough legs to over the years to be revised at least seven times. There were 2 silent versions and a talkie in 1929 before this decent but overwrought glossy MGM version. In 1966 it was again revived, with some success. This faithful version stars stage and screen actress Gladys George, who gives an effective performance, and is satisfactorily directed by Sam Wood (“A Night At The Opera”/”Goodbye, Mr. Chips”/”The Pride of the Yankees”). The soap opera screenplay is by John Meehan.
In a Paris penthouse, the married Jacqueline Fleuriot (Gladys George), to the renown lawyer Bernard (Warren William), tells her lover Jean Rochin (Phillip Reed) she’s breaking off the affair, but before she leaves Jean’s insanely jealous girl friend Annette (Ruth Hussey) bursts in and kills him. That same night Jaqueline’s young son Raymond is taken to the hospital ill and her hubby gives her the boot for being unfaithful and prevents her from ever seeing her son again. Rather than have hubby drag her illicit affairs through the courts and tarnish her family’s name, she agrees to vanish. When the couple’s close friend Maurice Doural (Reginald Owen) convinces her hubby to bring her back, he can’t find her. Jacqueline gets employment as a maid. When she learns she’s wanted for murder, she meets the wealthy Hugh Fariman, Jr. (William Henry) and sails on his yacht to America. In New York, she learns he’s married and she splits. Meeting with hardship in her travels to New Orleans as a club singer, the unlucky woman lands in South America. There she meets the slimy cardsharp Lerocle (Henry Daniell), and assists him in his card act. While drunk one night she tells him her sordid secret. When he blackmails her while they are back in France, she plugs him and gets arrested for the murder.
Over the years Jacqueline’s son Raymond (John Beal) becomes a public defender and gets engaged to the wealthy Helene (Lynne Carver). Coincidentally Raymond is assigned to be her lawyer, but Jacqueline remains mum about her identity and reason for the murder. When her former hubby recognizes her, she convinces him to keep still. Meanwhile Raymond has no inkling he’s defending his long-lost mom since he was told she died, but valiantly tries to defend a woman he feels sympathetic to who won’t tell him even her name and offers no defense for her crime.
Too bad it turns to sentimental drivel in the courtroom conclusion, replete with over-the-top histrionics. Otherwise it’s quite bearable as an old-fashioned soap opera, with the talented cast taking it seriously and giving strong performances.
REVIEWED ON 8/25/2014 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/