These complicated women's star talkies you might just recognize

“The law makes us a bunch of puppets on strings, like Punch and Judy,” says Ruth (Mae Clarke again) in James Whale’s “The Impatient Maide...


“The law makes us a bunch of puppets on strings, like Punch and Judy,” says Ruth (Mae Clarke again) in James Whale’s “The Impatient Maiden” in 1932. Ruth is the assistant to a divorce lawyer who regularly witnesses marriages marked by abuse, abandonment and betrayal. (This is in large part because of the country’s precarious economy, a reality that is taken into account in a number of films in this series.)

A practical girl nonetheless filled with a silent desire, Ruth suggests a sensible course of action when she falls for Lew Ayres’ Dr. Brown: wait to get married until her medical practice takes off. Scandal and hardship ensue when Dr. Brown rejects Ruth’s proposal, but we feel the root of the lovers’ problems lie not in a woman’s apprehension about marriage, but in the inert ideals that cloud the minds of men.

Other films in the series take marriage lightly, for the effect of assertiveness and playful joy.

In “An hour with you” (1932), a musical directed by Ernst Lubitsch with the help of George Cukor, stars Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald play a married couple, André and Colette, who are first seen flirting in a park, a place regularly reserved for lovers illicit. Colette’s best friend, a real home wrecker named Mitzi (a deliciously lusty Geneviève Tobin), takes a liking to André, sparking a night of infidelity on both sides that is permanently glossed over when the pair decide they’re hooking up. love too much to let these meaningless pursuits ruin them. As for Mitzi, she responds to her own husband’s divorce petition with suave nonchalance, coming away with a risque self-portrait.

The moments in these films where women defend themselves against gendered moralization are particularly touching.

In “Bad Girl”, when Dorothy meets her future husband and stays at his house until 4 a.m., she is kicked out of the apartment she shares with her brother, Floyd. But she never Actually suffers for his indiscretions: Floyd’s stubborn girlfriend, Edna (Minna Gombell), a single mother struggling to balance work and childcare, quickly abandons Floyd for his grossly patriarchal ideas and takes Dorothy under her wing.

Before the Code clamped down on depictions of interracial couples and the kinds of roles available to (very few) actors of color employed by Hollywood, films like “The Bitter Tea of ​​General Yen” (1933) could be made. For audiences at the time, the interracial romance between Barbara Stanwyck’s missionary character and a Chinese warlord contained shocking levels of intimacy – never mind that Nils Asther, a Swedish actor, played General Yen. That said, the most notable aspect of this undeniably biased film is the casting of Japanese actress Toshia Mori in her biggest and most dynamic role during her brief stint in the United States.

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Newsrust - US Top News: These complicated women's star talkies you might just recognize
These complicated women's star talkies you might just recognize
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