The Common Law (1931)

When Valerie West (Constance Bennett) grows tired of being Dick Carmedon’s (Lew Cody) kept woman, she decides to try to make it on her own, even though she has no skills and no work experience.  One thing she does have is good looks so she starts looking for modeling gigs.  When she goes to visit painter John Neville (Joel McCrea) to see if he needs a model, it proves to be kismet for both of them. Valerie just happens to be exactly the kind of model he needs for a painting he’s working on so he hires her on the spot.

As John works on his painting, he and Valerie become very good friends, which eventually turns to love.  Valerie even becomes John’s muse and he wants to marry her.  However, one thing he doesn’t know about her is that she used to be Dick’s mistress. When John does find out, he’s extremely jealous and she’s hurt by his reaction and leaves him.

After spending some time apart, Valerie and John run into each other again at a party and Valerie tries to patch things up. Before long, they’re living together and John once again has marriage on his mind, but Valerie wants to be sure both of them are absolutely sure it’s what they want. Meanwhile, John’s sister Claire (Hedda Hopper) has heard about John’s relationship with Valerie so she sends John a letter telling him to come home to their sick father. After a while, Claire gets in touch with Valerie to invite her to join her, John, and their father for a yacht party. Valerie goes, but when she and John realize that Claire has also invited Dick and Stephanie, John’s ex-girlfriend, to the party, they realize what Claire’s true motives are.

For the most part, I liked The Common Law.  Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea were excellent together, it’s got plenty of classic risqué pre-code moments, but I got a little bored with the movie about halfway through.  I had no problem paying attention in the beginning, but it just couldn’t hold my interest. The scenes involving the party on the yacht were a bit tedious and dragged on longer than they needed to. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s one I’d only recommend to people who are already interested in the pre-code era.

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