Welcome to what may be the first of many reviews of Norma Shearer movies to come in the near future. I recorded about half the movies TCM played during Norma Shearer day last week, so I’ve been having a lot of fun watching them all. The first one I watched was A Lady of Chance, and it sure was a good one to start off with!
In A Lady of chance, Norma Shearer plays Dolly “Angel Face” Morgan, gold digger extraordinaire. Dolly works as a telephone operator in a ritzy hotel and while at work one day, con-artists Brad and Gwen spot her trying to get the attention of the wealthy Mr. Hammond. Brad and Gwen recruit Dolly to go out with Mr. Hammond, get him to give her ten thousand dollars, and just when it looks like Mr. Hammond is getting too serious, Brad comes in, posing as Dolly’s husband, and makes off with the money. While Brad cashes the check, Mr. Hammond goes to the police to report Dolly. Brad and Gwen then try to tell Dolly that they couldn’t cash the check., but Dolly knows better and manages to sneak away with all ten thousand dollars.
The next day, Dolly happens to meet Steve Crandall (Johnny Mack Brown), who is in town for a concrete and tile exposition. Since Dolly assumes Steve must be rich, she really turns on the charm. She pays for his telegram, tells him that she doesn’t have a mother, pretends to sprain her ankle, the works. Before she knows it, Steve is officially in love with her and proposes. She accepts and they plan to get married right away, but just as she is packing to leave, Brad shows up and wants the money back. She doesn’t give him the money and instead pretends that she’s willing to go in on another scam. When Brad isn’t looking, she sneaks away, gets married, and joins Steve on a trip back to Alabama.
When they arrive in Alabama, Dolly quickly realizes that Steve isn’t rich after all. He didn’t own a plantation, only lived next door to one. Dolly was all set to return to New York, but realized she couldn’t leave him because she really does love him, even if he isn’t rich. Meanwhile, Brad and Gwen have come down to Alabama and pose as Dolly’s cousins. Dolly tries to convince them that Steve isn’t rich, but they don’t believe her. She gives them the ten thousand dollars just to get rid of them. But before they can leave, Steve comes home with the news that he has just sold a cement formula for $100,000. Brad and Gwen decide they’re not going anywhere.
Dolly is terrified that Gwen and Brad are going to tell Steve all about her history. She manages to get Gwen to keep quiet, but can’t figure out a way to keep Brad from fleecing Steve without admitting to her past. Dolly eventually decides to go ahead and come clean and turn herself into the police. She tries to tell Steve to go ahead and find a more deserving girl to be with, but in spite of everything, Steve still only loves Dolly.
I really loved this movie. I’ve only seen a couple of Norma’s silent films, but after seeing this A Lady of Chance, I think she doesn’t get enough credit for her work in silents. She gave a great performance, pretty restrained for silent film acting, and I really liked Norma and Johnny Mack Brown together. Plus Norma got to wear many awesome hats! I love great hats, and Norma wore so many great cloche hats here. I wish they still made hats like those. I’m a big fan of movies that pack a lot of great stuff into a short amount of time, and with a runtime of 78 minutes, I think A Lady of Chance certainly falls into that category. It’s just a great little movie.
While we’re on the subject of Norma Shearer, if you haven’t seen this Norma fanvid set to Tik Tok by Ke$ha, you should check it out. Alas, I can no longer say that I’ve never heard an entire Ke$ha song, but the video is really cute, I like it a lot.