For something a little different from the obvious Precode classics, a review of the more adult movie of manners, Another Language (1933).
Louise Closser Hale – MomJohn Beal – Jerry
Henry Travers – Pop
Margaret Hamilton – Helen
Willard Robertson – Harry
Irene Cattell – Grace
Minor Watson – Paul
Hal K. Dawson – Walter
Maidel Turner – Etta
Robert Montgomery – Victor
Helen Hayes – Stella
Robert Montgomery, without his usual co-star Norma Shearer and Broadway actress from ‘Farewell to Arms’ fame, Helen Hayes head the cast in a common tale of a women with a problematic family-in law. Victor (Robert Montgomery) and Stella (Helen Hayes) meet and fall in love on a ship crossing to America. After the fairy-tale affair they elope and marry on the spur of the moment. When the ship docks, Stella is introduced to Victors boisterous family including, the loudmouthed Harry (Willard Robertson), the crude Walter (Hal K. Dawson) and the high-pitched Etta (Maidel Turner). The first meeting is awkward; Victors family laugh at Stella quiet, thoughtful nature and make jokes about her expensive, high fashion clothing. Although, married life begins well, on the weekly visits to Victor’s parent’s house, Stella is constantly undermined by Victor’s overbearing mother (Louise Closser Hale) and mocked by her daughter Helen (Margaret Hamilton).
Victor and his mother
This dislike is compounded when Stella begins to take sculpture lessons and the family cannot understand why Victor married an artistic, emotional woman without the desire for children or love of housekeeping. Stella finds a kindred-spirit in Jerry (John Beal) the young son of Etta and Walter who has an aspiration to be an architect but is being persuaded by his family to join the more stable employment of finance. They find common interests and agree to see each other again. As Jerry and Stella become close, Stella’s marriage with Victor begins crumbling.
Jerry and Stella
Victor continues to bend to the desires of his mother and siblings and ignores the wants of his wife. The increases to a family dinner held at Victor and Stella’s when an argument erupts between the couple, the family (including Victor) storm out leaving Jerry and Stella alone. Jerry confesses he love Stella and she lets him kiss her. Stella must question what remaining feelings she has for her husband, her feelings for Jerry and whether she can salvage a relationship with her mother-in-law.
I found this movie after listening to an amazing Lux Radio Theatre production of the same name, starring Bette Davis. It’s not a traditional Precode favourite with little racy or code-breaking moments other than a scantily clad artist’s model and the unconfirmed rumour that Stella and Jerry spent a night together.
Note the model in the background
Victor comes from a traditional family of high spirited couples whose main focus is to eat until they burst and have children and perfectly contradicts Stella’s independent, dreamy air. The film has a clever, witty script mostly taken from the play by Rose Franken of the same name. Robert Montgomery had a history of dapper, straight gentlemen roles before this part and this characterisation is in a similar vain. He is not great, but his dialogue with his boisterous brothers is interesting. Helen Hayes is also good but I can’t help thinking, with her reputation, whether she would have been more radiant on the stage than on camera. The best are the women of the family – Grace, Helen, Etta and Mom – their quick-witted conversation, mockery and expressions are delightful and make the film.
The female round table: Mom, Etta and Helen
In the character of Helen, is Margaret Hamilton, made famous as the main evil witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Although she is dressed dowdily and is carrying a little more weight than her celebrated role, her long face, collected, smirking expressions and voice are perfect for the role as the favourite daughter and confidant of Victor’s mother.
Margaret Hamilton: not quite a wicked witch
Although, the film at times seems to be shot more from the position of a stage than real-life, the beautiful dialogue and adult subjects are worth watching.
“We are not high toned enough for Stella” Mom
“I don’t know what holds him, she isn’t even pretty.” Mom
“Her hair’s cute. But that’s not enough.” Helen
“I asked Walter if he thought she had sex.” Etta (I'm not sure if that is what she actually said, but that is what is sounded like.)
“Aren’t you terrible?” Helen
“What did he say, Grace?” Mom
“Not for him, she didn’t.” Grace.
“Why do you have to call me Aunt Stella, it makes me feel soo old.” Stella
“Well, if I don’t call you Aunt, I don’t get to kiss you.” Jerry
Blink and you will miss it...