Friday, November 9, 2018

THE REMAKE OF THE "THEY REMADE WHAT?!" BLOGATHON: When Ladies Meet, 1933 and 1941

The original They Remade What?! blogathon in 2015 was loads of fun. So pleased that Phyllis Loves Classic Movies revived the blogathon which runs from November 9 to 11. Click HERE for all the contributions. This post is also part of an ongoing series on the blog that I call Remake Avenue.

Rachel Crothers, playwright, producer, director, performer
December 12, 1878 - July 5, 1958

"If you want to see the sign of the times, watch women. Their evolution is the most important thing in modern life."
- Rachel Crothers, 1912

Rachel Crothers was the most successful and influential woman in theatre in the early part of the 20th century. Born in Illinois to parents who were both doctors, Rachel and her sister were raised to be educated, independent women at a time when that was rare. After high school, Rachel founded a dramatic society in her home state but eventually moved to New York City where she began an acting career. She also wrote plays and her first success, The Three of Us, premiered on Broadway in 1906.

When Ladies Meet, written and staged by Rachel Crothers began its successful run on Broadway in 1932. It was her 26th play produced on the New York stage. Not every one was a hit, but the legacy is staggering. MGM had their film version ready for release in 1933.

1933 Film Cast
Ann Harding as Claire Woodruff
Robert Montgomery as Jimmie Lee
Myrna Loy as Mary Howard
Alice Brady as Bridget Drake
Frank Morgan as Rogers Woodruff
Martin Burton as Walter Manners
Luis Alberni as Pierre

The 1933 film was directed by Harry Beaumont (Our Dancing Daughters) and an uncredited Robert Z. Leonard (Pride and Prejudice) whose connection to the project would extend to the remake. The screenplay is by John Meehan (The Valley of Decision) and Leon Gordon (The Unguarded Hour). This version of the play runs 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Jimmie Lee is an easy-going young journalist with a deep love for Mary Howard. Mary Howard is an up and coming author with a deep love for her married publisher Rogers Woodruff. Mary has strong ideas about love and its nobility. These ideas have spread into her writing which distresses Jimmie. He thinks her work used to be fine and real but is turning into something phony. Mary's love for Woodruff has clouded her judgment as to the true place of the wife in such a triangle and the rightness of her love.

Jimmie finagles a meeting with Mrs. Woodruff on the golf course. Claire turns out to be a wonderful woman with a forthright character and a sense of humour. Jimmie further finagles a way for Mary to meet Claire without knowing her connection to Woodruff.

Visiting the country home of Bridget Drake where Mary is spending the weekend Claire agrees to help Jimmie make the "girl he's crazy about" see him in a different light with another woman. Claire finds the innocent adventure to be fun and she and Mary make a friendly connection. They exchange the ideas Mary details in her latest book with neither knowing they are speaking of their real life. If only Mary realized when Claire tells of her husband's philandering ways that she is speaking of the man Mary envisions as so splendid.

Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy, Alice Brady
Martin Burton, Ann Harding, Frank Morgan

Bridget's country home has been magnificently designed by her younger male companion Walter. The set is homey, yet sophisticated. Cedric Gibbons was nominated for the Oscar for Best Art Direction for When Ladies Meet. Mary describes Bridget as "the most intelligent fool I've never known." Bridget is a scattered and fluttery character, but out of her mouth comes some of the most interesting comments on society and people in the play/screenplay.

Bridget: "I tell you this is an awfully hard age for a good woman to live in. I mean a woman who wants to have any fun. The old instincts of right and wrong merely hold you back. You're neither one thing nor the other. You're neither happy and bad, nor good and contented. You're just discontentedly decent."

Myrna Loy as Mary Howard
Gowns by Adrian

Mary is so confident in her blind love for Rogers Woodruff that her idealistic naivete keeps her from appreciating Jimmie Lee. Even after spending time with Claire, whom she admires, and hearing her side of a marriage with a philanderer, Mary stands by her high-minded feelings for Rogers. The whole business comes crashing down when the three points of the triangle come together, and Mary sees the sordid truth of the affair.

Mary: "You know me. I'm a girl who writes books. Very smart books about modern people. Very smart people. I know exactly how everybody feels; exactly what everybody's thinking. That's how smart I am. I couldn't be fooled. I know all the jokes even when they're on me."

Claire is easy to like and it is easy to be on her side as the aggrieved wife, even when it seems she is giving up too much for a man who isn't worth it. Claire, like Mary, also faces a reckoning after the storm wrought on Bridget's charming retreat by Jimmie's shenanigans.

Claire: "Always before I was glad to get you back and thankful it was over - always thinking of you, never of "her". Now I've seen "her" and something happened to me."

If Rogers wants his marriage, he will have a fight on his hands. If Jimmie still wants Mary perhaps he will not have long to wait. She doesn't kick him out of Bridget's kitchen, and there is the hint of a relaxed smile on her face at his annoying jokes. Mary has come through heartbreak and is the better because of the trial.

Movie connection:

Ann Harding, Leslie Howard, Myrna Loy

Prior to When Ladies Meet, Ann Harding and Myrna Loy co-starred in the RKO production of The Animal Kingdom based on Philip Barry's play. Leslie Howard left a faithful and supportive lover (Harding) to marry a faithless and manipulative wife (Loy).

1941 Film Cast
Joan Crawford as Mary Howard
Robert Taylor as Jimmy Lee
Greer Garson as Claire Woodruff
Spring Byington as Bridget Drake
Rafael Storm as Walter Del Canto
Mona Barrie as Mabel Guinness
Max Willenz as Pierre
Florence Shirley as Janet Hopper
Leslie Francis as Homer Hopper

The 1941 film was directed by Robert Z. Leonard (Maytime) with the screenplay by S.K. Lauren (Three Cornered Moon) and Anita Loos (The Women). This version of the play runs 1 hour and 45 minutes, extending the earlier feature by 20 minutes. The film was opened up to include more characters and have the lead characters interact for longer scenes. A literary party shows Mary interacting with fans. Another party is where Jimmy meets Claire and they have an amusing sailing scene prior to showing up at Bridget's country home.

Herbert Marshall, Spring Byington, Joan Crawford, Rafael Storm, Robert Taylor

Above we attend a penthouse party which the guest of honour, Mary Howard, plans on leaving early to work with her publisher Rogers Woodruff. Her friends are suspicious. She's not wearing them here, but Mary has the conceit of wearing unneeded eyeglasses. Jimmy thinks she is being affected. Mary tells Rogers it is because she is terribly shy. Joan plays Mary with a lovely sense of her sincerity. Although she can't help carrying the aura of being the type of girl not easily fooled by anyone which is at odds with Mary's character. Bridget's speech about discontent from the earlier movie is revamped for Mary in this version, perhaps to reflect Joan's more mature persona.

Mary: "Oh Bridgey, this is an awfully hard age for us women. That is if you care for the real thing. I've never been content with imitations and here we are surrounded by them on all sides. Nothing lasting, nothing real, nothing fine."

Bridget: "Practically nothing at all."

Spring Byington originally played Bridget in the Broadway production of When Ladies Meet in 1932 with Frieda Inescourt as Mary, Selena Royle as Claire and Walter Abel as Jimmie Lee. Ms. byington absolutely steals the movie out from under the star-studded cast as the fluttery, always appearing to be two steps behind the rest of the world character.

Greer Garson, Joan Crawford

Once again Cedric Gibbons would receive an Oscar nomination, along with Randall Duell and Edwin B. Ellis for the sets in this picture, especially Bridget's renovated old country mill. It is spectacular. You may enjoy this piece from Silver Scenes on the delightful set. Once again, the gowns are by Adrian.

Some scenes are lifted straight from the earlier movie such as the charming scene where Mary and Claire bond at the piano over Grieg's Ich Liebe Dich and are silhouetted when the power goes out due to a storm. It is extremely lovely and effective both times.

One smaller change from the 1933 movie is that previously Rogers compliments Mary on having the feet of a thoroughbred. She calls it an odd compliment but is touched and uses the phrase later when complimenting Claire. In our 1941 movie, it is changed to the "sweet" compliment of hands of a thoroughbred.

The relationship between Mary and Claire remains the same. They are great roles for actresses. It is, by necessity, a talkie script but in the hands of pros, extremely entertaining. Here is part of Claire's rebuttal to Mary's apology for her character.

Claire: "The hard thing for me to believe is that she believes in this man when he says he loves her. Speaking as a married woman I feel your girl if she's been around, ought to know enough not to believe a married man when he makes love to her."

When the truth reveals itself, I felt they softened Rogers character a bit in his encounter with Mary. He professed a true love, but Mary saw through him. Her bitter speech, unlike that in the 1933 movie, was not said to the assembled house guests, but to Rogers alone.

Mary: "I'm the girl who knew all about everything - who knew about love with a capital "L". And who knew about that other thing too, that tawdry whatever else it was you felt for me. I'm the girl who dedicated her life to telling others all about these things in books. I'm the one who thought I inspired a world-shattering romance. I was another Juliet, a modern Francesca. Oh yes, I was even an Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And all the while I was just another one of your adventures."

When the dust settles, the movie ends with Mary symbolically breaking her eyeglasses and sharing a kiss with Jimmy. Personally, I prefer the companionable kitchen scene from 1933. Judge for yourself.


  1. I enjoy both of these films, but I must say I like the 1933 version just a bit better. I've never been a big fan of Crawford but I adore Myrna Loy. But I think it's a tie between the two Roberts playing Jimmie.

    1. Jimmie is a great character. He has no choice about being a little sneaky about the meeting because Mary is just so darn stubborn. Well cast both times.

      Joan does a good job with Mary, but Myrna seems more at ease with the role.

  2. What a great comparison! I only know the pre-Code version, which is a joy, I'll have to check out the other one.
    Ann Harding is unfortunately now an almost forgotten actress. She was very unique, of a type that was somehow completely different than all the other 30s actresses. More like someone from the previous century.

    1. Thanks. I think you will enjoy being able to compare 1941 to 1933.

      I see that ethereal aura in Ann Harding as well. Something that sets her apart from the ordinary. She is entrancing.

  3. I'm pretty sure I've heard about those movies, but not watched them. I'm particularly interested in seeing more of Ann Harding, so I hope to give the 1933 version a chance soon!

    1. I think When Ladies Meet is something you will enjoy for its interesting characters and its very thoughtful script.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Lovely article. You really showed how these are women's pictures and give actresses a script with a lot of dialogue to flesh out their characters. I particularly enjoyed how well you interwove information about the making of the film with the events of the film. Very enjoyable.

    1. Thank you so much. This was a fun and interesting post to work on, and it makes me happy that you found it the same.

  5. A great comparison! I'll have to go with the remake in this case because I feel it has a stronger overall cast.

    1. I'm surprised MGM didn't go for another version in the 1950s. I may now spend the day imagining a cast for that one.

      It isn't that I don't admire Alice Brady (I do!), but I would have liked to have seen Spring Byington in the 1933 version, closer to the age she was when she played Bridgey on stage.

  6. Paddy Lee, another really good write-up. I really like the so true quote of Rachel Crothers about watching women. What was true in 1912 is still true in 2018.

    I've seen the 1941 version of WHEN LADIES MEET, so thanks to your wonderful review, I'll seek out the Pre-Code version. Like you, I'm surprised MGM didn't go for another re-make in the 1950's. Eleanor Parker, anyone?

    1. Oh, Eleanor Parker! I like the way your mind works. The casting game can keep us as busy as watching all these grand movies.

  7. This was a great write-up, CW! I never saw the original but really enjoyed the remake and can't quite picture Ann Harding topping Greer Garson's performance...but then again I'm biased because Greer is such a favorite. Interestingly, a few weeks ago I listed a photo for sale on eBay of the set from "When Ladies Meet" ( 1941 ). It had no description on the photo so I was assuming it was from that film but, looking at the photo you featured near the top, I'm beginning to think it is from the 1933 version instead! Both were impressive sets.

  8. Thank you. I know that we could very happily move into those sets. Ah well, when I win the lottery or turn into Ida Lupino in The Twilight Zone.

    Ann Harding is marvelous in this movie and I hope TCM shows it sometime soon so you get the chance to compare.

  9. Hi there, yeah this post is truly nice and I have learned
    lot of things from it about blogging. thanks. 토토사이트

  10. Good article. I absolutely love this site.
    Thanks! 경마사이트

  11. It as really a great and helpful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing. 토토사이트



Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting The 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon . The popular blogathon is runn...