Venice Muir (Constance Bennett) is rich, beautiful, stylish, and very intelligent, so you’d think she’s the kind of woman guys line up to meet, right? Nope. Venice wishes she were more appealing to men, but she’s just too dull to get their attention. She’s knows darn well that all the men she meets want someone exciting, but how does one get an exciting reputation without actually having to earn it? It turns out the answer is to make one up.
Donnie Wainwright (David Manners) is the man she longs for the most, and Venice’s friend tries to get him to talk to her. One night at a party, he gets drunk and takes a chance on Venice and talks her into running off to Paris to elope with him. But the next day, he leaves her for another woman. Venice goes ahead with the trip and along the way, comes up with a plan to win Donnie back.
While in Paris, she meets an unemployed American named Guy Bryson (Ben Lyon) and hires him to pose as her gigolo. He helps her concoct a whole new persona with a slew of fake rumors about her love life to go with it. Sure enough, this plan works and Venice quickly becomes one of the most sought after women in Paris. When Donny comes to Paris for a few days, of course he’s shocked to see that Venice now has a band of admirers, which Venice uses to make Donny very jealous.
However, the plan hits a snag when Rene (Albert Conte), one of Venice’s suitors, proposes to her and she turns him down. He had been very deep in debt and was hoping to marry her to save himself, but when she rejects him, he kills himself. Meanwhile, Venice is at the train station with Donny, who proposes to her again. But when she hears about Rene, she is devastated. She never meant for her scheme to hurt anyone, so she and Guy head back to America, where they quickly realize that Venice’s new reputation has already made its way overseas. When she goes to a party, all the men flock to her, but Donny doesn’t approve of her new image. She calls him out for being a hypocrite, but he manages to win her over once and for all.
Lady With a Past is far from being great cinema, but it is a pretty likeable bit of fluff. By far, the most far-fetched thing about this movie is that we’re supposed to believe that no man is interested in Constance Bennett. I thought it was interesting that they didn’t try to make Venice even the slightest bit dowdy; she was glamorous and stylish the whole time. Venice is a bit socially awkward at first, but come on! Plenty of men would let that slide for a woman who looks like that. But if you’re able to suspend your disbelief, Constance, David Manners, and Ben Lyon do a good job of making the movie fun to watch.