GOOD INTENTIONS AND GUILT
The often adventuresome early 20th- century filmmaker King Vidor, adapted Robert Gore-Browne’s 1928 novel, The Imperfect Love and Gore-Browne and H. M. Harwood’s 1931 (in the US) play, as Cynara in 1932. Given Vidor’s credentials, the relative success of the play and novel, and the nearly impeccable credentials of actors Ronald Colman and Kay Francis (who play a happily married couple, Jim and Clemency Warlock), and the film’s pre-code sexual openness, one might have imagined that this movie would result in a witty romantic delight. Yet, strangely, given Warlock’s priggish attitudes toward love and marriage and the script’s plot resolution, it smells more of the 1950s comedy of possible sexual infidelity—one of my least favorite of Billy Wilder’s films, despite Marilyn Monroe’s fetching comedic talent—The Seven Year Itch. Even worse, Vidor’s film has the basic melodramatic structure of David Lean’s weepy film, Brief Encounter, the only difference being, in both these cases, that Warlock’s one-time extra-marital affair with shop-girl Emily Lea (Phyllis Barry) is something he truly enjoys almost as much as he loves his trusting wife.
Unlike the sexual-itchy character played by Tom Ewell, when Warlock’s wife leaves on the very eve of their 4th anniversary with the intentions of dragging her sister, with the improbable name of Gorla (Florine McKinney), away from another of her embarrassing infatuations, Warlock has no intentions of seeking out another woman—despite his judicial friend, John Tring’s (Henry Stephenson) insinuation that it is quite natural to dally while the wife’s away (or even while she’s around). As Warlock himself insists, he’s a boring man, desperately and emphatically in love with his wife.