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Mrs. Fay Cheyney, a rich American widow, insinuates herself into London society. Two men in particular -- middle-aged Lord Kelton and Lord Arthur Dilling, a young playboy -- pursue her. All are present at a large weekend house party, and though both men press their suit, Fay seems to favor Kelton. Then Dilling sees Fay's butler lurking in the gardens, recognizes him as a jewel thief who was apprehended in Monte Carlo, and realizes that Fay is probably after the hostess's pearls. Fay does get hold of the pearls -- but before she can pass them to her accomplice, Dilling gets hold of her.Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com> and Determined Copy Editor
Joan Crawford is a jewel thief trying to break into society in "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney," a 1937 film from MGM also starring William Powell, Robert Montgomery, Nigel Bruce, Frank Morgan, and Jessie Ralph. It's a remake of a 1929 film which starred Norma Shearer. Crawford is a sophisticated and glamorous woman we first meet on board ship as she's maneuvering and flirting her way into the company of a society crowd. While doing so, she meets Lord Arthur Dilling (Robert Montgomery). He and Lord Kelton (Morgan) pursue her. Once in London, she wangles the one thing that she and her gang of thieves (led by William Powell as her butler) have been waiting for - an invitation to Lady Ebley's country home, and a crack at Lady Ebley's fabulous pearl necklace. All doesn't go as planned.
Given the star power, the film has some interesting moments, but for the most part, it's played too straight. A lighter touch was needed. This is perhaps a directorial problem (there were several) or the fact that Joan Crawford was better at drama than at comedy, and William Powell better at comedy than at drama. Powell does a great job, but it isn't much of a role. Audiences probably left the theater disappointed - perhaps part of the reason the film flopped at the box office. He doesn't have a lot to play off of, and no chemistry with Crawford. Robert Montgomery is his usual self in one of those roles that fit him like a glove, but the star trio is too somber.
Joan Crawford looks fabulous, and with a strong director who had a concept of the script, she would have been fine. She didn't have a grasp of playing comedy, but she was a hard worker who seemingly took direction well. It's a shame MGM spent all that money on what was a first-class production only to have it just lay an egg. Apparently some of the racier parts of the play version had to be left out due to the code. At times, the film drags.
Several of the comments blamed Crawford, some the script, but I do believe with the right director, "The Last of Mrs. Cheney" could have been a lot better.
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