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On June 23, 1933, director Harry Beaumont’s adaptation of When Ladies Meet hit the big screen. The film would go on to nab an Oscar nomination for art direction at the 6th Academy Awards ceremony. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
It may be humanly impossible to produce a 100 percent perfect picture, but we’ll shout from the housetops that When Ladies Meet is 99 percent above criticism, without fear of successful contradiction. Put down the one percent of theoretical flaw to the delicate tightening that an expert editor may have to do — we’d hate to tackle the job — by trimming dialogue here and there, and the final result will be a masterpiece in its sphere of entertainment.
The superb flawlessness of it runs through every department of picture making, from casting to lighting and photography.
What is more remarkable, the picture gives every promise of being as emphatic a success at the box office as it obviously an artistic triumph. Previewed before a small-town audience, Rachel Crothers’ smart, ripe and sophisticated version of the eternal triangle of two women and a man made a bulls-eye of every shaft the dramatist let fly.
No metropolitan crowd could have followed the unfolding of the situations with keener relish, grasped the subtlest implications more readily or greeted the humor and irony of the piece at every turn with finer appreciation. Ann Harding’s final dismissal to her philandering husband, Frank Morgan, brought a storm of applause that we predict will be repeated in hundreds of small-town houses from Maine to California.
As for its success in the key centers of the country, the business When Ladies Meet will do is as easy to forecast as the election of Roosevelt.
The five principals share the acting honors equally, and the performance of each is an individual triumph. Alice Brady will be an instantaneous sensation as the gushing widow who always says the wrong thing and realizes it the next instant. Her first talking picture establishes her as a comedienne of the first water.
Though Ann Harding is the last to enter the story, she gives what seems to us the finest interpretation of her career as the wife. It is terrific in its restraint, and her careful building up to the turning point of the story makes her transition, when she realizes Myrna Loy as her rival, one of the finest things in modern pictures.
As for Myrna Loy, she is making faster progress than any young actress in Hollywood today. Her Mary Howard is another shining milestone in what promises to be a brilliant career. Robert Montgomery eclipses his previous best as Jimmy. Frank Morgan is above reproach as the elderly and incorrigible Don Juan. Martin Burton, Luis Alberni and Sterling Holoway contribute minor gems of acting.
A panegyric could be written about the settings alone. Nothing finer has been conceived in any studio on the coast. And Ray June’s photography is in every way worthy of the play, the settings and the cast.
You can push the gas throttle through the floor-board and go the limit on this picture. It’s a picture for every type of audience. If When Ladies Meet isn’t the answer to a showman’s prayer, it’s too late for prayers or anything else to save your theatre. — Staff review, originally published May 8, 1933
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