BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY (Warner Archives)

By • Jun 5th, 2014 •

Share This:

THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY is one of those films whose plot can’t be summarized without putting the entire description under a ‘spoiler’ alert. Let’s just say, if one were to compare it to a recent film, a perfect choice would be AMERICAN HUSTLE. Even though this was one of five versions of the story, so the plot was probably popularly known in its day, I would advise not reading the back of the DVD box cover until after you’ve viewed the film. Ditto the plot description on IMDB. Then again, I never watch trailers because they give away too much, so maybe I’m not the one to listen to. If you don’t mind learning enough to blunt Act Two’s big reveal, that’s up to you.

The first act just wasn’t doing it for me. It felt like a standard drawing room comedy. Then, when I realized I was being set up… Crawford is excellent in it. Despite the homogenizing studio affectations of wardrobe, makeup, hairstyle, and lighting, her strong personality comes through. Ten years had passed since THE UNKNOWN, which she considered, after working with Lon Chaney, the experience that showed her what she must do to become an actress. She had done 30+ films since, and by now she was very much in control, her ‘instrument’ finely tuned.

William Powell, an actor who exuded a special kind of warmth in his roles – whether playing the charming protagonist or the charming villain, similar to the vibes coming from Cagney, Wayne, Hanks or Connery – fiddles around with his image here to good effect. By now he’d done far more film work than Crawford, and had starred in productions like the three-hour THE GREAT ZIEGFELD and the career-defining THE THIN MAN. He gracefully lets Crawford dominate the narrative, lending her strong support.

The one I’m less than enamored with is Robert Montgomery. I never much cared for his looks. When he directed and starred in LADY IN THE LAKE where, as a unique experiment, we saw the film subjectively through his eyes, and only once glimpsed him in a mirror, I couldn’t have been more pleased. However, given my antipathy towards the actor, I ruefully admit that I actually liked him in THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY.

The film has some loose ends. Maybe that’s because the first director (Richard Boleslawski) died during production, and the second one (George Fitzmaurice) dropped out after becoming ill, leaving its completion to Dorothy Arzner. But it survived all that juggling, ends up a fun piece, and one that you might return to, so I’d consider adding it to your DVD shelves.

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Share This Article: Digg it | del.icio.us | Google | StumbleUpon | Technorati

Leave a Comment

(Comments are moderated and will be approved at FIR's discretion, please allow time to be displayed)