Charles Butterworth

Illicit (1931)

While many young ladies are chomping at the bit to get married, especially to a rich man, Anne Vincent (Barbara Stanwyck) isn’t one of them.  She loves Dick Ives, II (James Rennie) dearly, but really does not want to get married.  He’s repeatedly asked her to marry him, but she’s afraid getting married would ruin their relationship.  She’s seen how some of her friends’ marriages have ended up and she doesn’t want to wind up like them.  Living together out of wedlock is just fine and dandy by her.  But Dick’s family is much more conventional than she is and when word gets out about their illicit relationship, she gives into the pressure to get married.

All is going well before the wedding until Anne gets a telegram from her ex-boyfriend Price Baines (Ricardo Cortez) announcing that he’s coming to see her.  Dick doesn’t like the idea of her seeing him before the wedding, but she insists on it.  Naturally, Price is shocked to hear that she of all people is getting married and tries to talk her out of it and be with him instead.  She sticks to her guns and marries Dick.  At first, their marriage is great, but after about a year, things start to go downhill.  They never get to spend any time alone, Dick spends a lot of time traveling for work, and finally, Anne finds out Dick is having an affair with his ex-girlfriend Margie (Natalie Moorhead).

When Anne finally confronts Dick about his affair, she realizes that marriage has made her into the person she was afraid of becoming.  She decides to move back to her old apartment so they can have their freedoms again and maybe recapture the thrill of their early relationship.  They continue to see each other and it seems the plan has worked.  But one day, Price drops in on Anne unexpectedly and tries once again to win her over.  Even though she turns him down, Dick also comes over unannounced and catches them together.  He is furious and declares that he’s going to see other people, too.  He gets back together with Margie and even plans to take a to take a trip with her.  Anne is heartbroken, but just when she thinks he has left her for good, Dick surprises her.

Illicit is one of the most completely pre-code movie titles you can possibly have, and it certainly lives up to its name.  Living together out of wedlock, questioning marriage, adultery, plenty of innuendo, it doesn’t get much more pre-code than that.  Even though the idea of living together out of wedlock is not shocking at all anymore, this movie still packs a punch.  I loved Barbara Stanwyck in it, but I wish they had featured Joan Blondell more.  Joan had a small part as one of Anne’s friends, but I like seeing her with Stanwyck.  I liked them together in Night Nurse and since they’re both actresses who thrived in the pre-code era, it would have been fun if they had been teamed up more often.

Love Me Tonight (1932)

Viscount Gilbert de Vareze (Charlie Ruggles) is a huge fan of Parisian tailor Maurice Courtelin (Maurice Chevalier).  Not because he’s a particularly big fan of his work, but because he’s the only tailor in Paris who will let him buy suits on credit.  After Gilbert buys several suits from him on credit and skips out on the bill, Maurice isn’t about to sit back and take this, so he heads out to his family’s estate to collect on the debt.  Gilbert lives with his uncle Count de Savignac (Charles Butterworth), the Count’s daughter Princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald) and niece Countess Valentine (Myrna Loy).  On his way to the estate, Maurice runs into Jeanette on his way to the estate.  It’s love at first sight for him, but Jeanette isn’t as easily won over.

When Maurice arrives at the estate, he refuses to leave until Gilbert pays his bill.  Unable to pay, Gilbert goes ahead and invites Maurice to stay for a few days until he can get the money.  He tells his family that Maurice is really a Baron and  even though Maurice thinks this scheme is ridiculous, he decides to go along with it when he realizes that Jeanette lives there.  Some of the family questions his background, but ultimately, he wins them over.  They even throw a costume ball in his honor.  Valentine in particular has taken a shine to Maurice, but he still loves Jeanette and Jeanette can no longer deny that she loves him, too.

But Maurice’s cover is blown when one day he sees Jeanette’s seamstress working on a new riding habit for her and he thinks he could do better.  First he rudely dismisses the seamstress, but then the family is scandalized when he is caught with a semi-dressed Jeanette.  At last it comes out that he’s a tailor, not a Baron, and Maurice catches the next train out of there.  The only person not outraged by this revelation is Jeanette, who hops on the fastest horse she can find and chases him down.

I really enjoyed Love Me Tonight.  I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite movies, but it is very light, charming, and witty.  The cast is wonderful and you’ve really got to see its incredibly lavish sets.  Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald may be the stars, and they’re great, but Myrna Loy is a total scene stealer.  Myrna’s character is very man crazed and one of my favorite moments of the movie is when Gilbert asks her if she could go for a doctor and she says, “Yes!  Bring him right in!”  Her delivery of that line is classic.  She says it in total Myrna Loy fashion and it’s perfect for this movie.