The Ex Mrs. Bradford 1936

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936)

If there’s one thing Paula Bradford (Jean Arthur) can’t resist, it’s a good mystery case. She loves writing about them and loves investigating them. Her ex-husband Lawrence (William Powell) does not share her enthusiasm and divorced her because he was tired of getting dragged into her murder investigations. But even though they are no longer married, he still finds himself getting asked to help with her investigations.

When jockey Eddie Sands suddenly dies during a horse race, Paula suspects he was murdered and goes straight to see Lawrence. Lawrence really doesn’t want to get involved, but when Eddie’s horse’s trainer Mike North (Frank M. Thomas) offers up some compelling evidence, he agrees to examine Eddie’s corpse and the only unusual thing he finds are traces of gelatin on his skin. But when a mysterious package for Mike arrives at Lawrence’s home, one that mysterious people are eager to get their hands on, Lawrence can’t help but get involved with the investigation. Not long after the package arrives, Mike is found dead on Lawrence’s doorstep, making Lawrence a top suspect and the only way to clear his name is to find the real murderer.

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford was definitely an attempt by RKO to capitalize on the success of The Thin Man, but despite the fact that you can tell what it’s trying to emulate, it doesn’t feel like a completely cheap rip-off, either.  William Powell and Jean Arthur were both too strongly talented to let that happen. It tries, and it makes a good effort, but it just falls short. The chemistry between Powell and Arthur is nice, but not nearly as spectacular as the Loy/Powell chemistry did. The writing has some really witty moments that Powell and Arthur both do very well with, but it’s not as consistently sharp as The Thin Man. It’s not that terribly remarkable, but there are far worse ways you could spend 80 minutes, too. It’s one of those movies that I’d say rises above being mediocre, but isn’t strong enough for me to call it an underrated gem.

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