Middle-aged Napa Valley grape-grower Tony posts a marriage proposal to San Francisco waitress Lena enclosing a photo of his handsome younger brother Buck. When she gets there she overlooks ...
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Middle-aged Napa Valley grape-grower Tony posts a marriage proposal to San Francisco waitress Lena enclosing a photo of his handsome younger brother Buck. When she gets there she overlooks his duplicity and marries him. Then she falls in love with Buck.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film is based on the Broadway production of "They Knew What They Wanted" by Sidney Howard opened on November 24, 1924 at the Garrick Theater, ran for 192 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1925. See more »
Enjoyable early talkie version of Sidney Howard's play
Sidney Howard's 1924 play "They Knew What They Wanted" had already been brought to the silver screen in 1928 as the silent "The Secret Hour" (Paramount) which I have not seen and probably never will since I am averse to silent movies. Just two years later, it was given the talkie treatment by MGM as "A Lady to Love", originally entitled "Sunkissed".
As one would expect, everyone is very histrionic, especially Edward G. Robinson, but effectively so when one is accustomed to watching early talkies and knows what to expect. The three stars have good chemistry, no matter if they're all together or just in couples. The prolonged early scene between Vilma Banky and Leon Ames is quite amusing and well paced. Ames seems the most natural, but maybe that's because he's the only one without an accent. The character portrayed by the Austro-Hungarian Banky is Swedish, but was originally American and the writing reveals this with the numerous ain't-s and other colloquialisms which sound natural from Ames' mouth, but very artificial from hers. Just changing the character's nationality to suit the actress without revising her lines seems like a lazy fix and was somewhat irritating to me, but not enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the film.
What can one say about Robinson as the Italian grapeg rower? This is probably his hammiest film performance, yet he is always watchable and entertaining. Seeing him fall down the stairs in a drunken frenzy or giggle like a squeamish schoolgirl when Banky is rubbing him down are particular highlights. I couldn't help but laugh at the prominently placed portrait of Mussolini on his wall considering that World War II was just nine years away at the time.
Merritt B. Gerstad's cinematography is very fluid (for an early talkie), beautiful and atmospheric, as it usually was in films lensed by him - see the talkie version "Seventh Heaven" from 1937. Apart from the creaky title music, the score is confined to source cues as was customary at the time. Max Steiner would soon set a new trend with his extensive (for its time, of course) score for "Symphony of Six Million" in 1932.
A German language version for foreign distribution was filmed in parallel on the same sets. This was not unusual in the pre-dubbing era of the early 30's - Dracula was filmed in both English and Spanish in 1931. Nevertheless, "Die Sehnsucht jeder Frau" (Every Woman's Passion), as it was retitled in German, was unusual in that it retained the English version's director Victor Seastrom (a Swede) as well as two of its stars - Banky (Austro-Hungarian) and Robinson (Romanian), while the American Ames was replaced by Joseph Schildkraut. I would personally love to see this version out of curiosity - who would have guessed Edward G. knew German? - but it seems to be lost.
The play was eventually filmed in English for the third time in 1940 under its original title, released by RKO and starring Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard. I have yet to see this version since I am also somewhat averse to both stars, but I may give it a chance one day since I moderately enjoyed their previous collaboration - Paramount's "White Woman" from 1933. None of those four film versions of the play has been officially released on DVD, let alone Blu Ray, but I hope this 1930 version gets released by the Warner Archive Collection since I would gladly make it part of my own.
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