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Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Every Woman Knows (1934)

Set in Scotland, a father (David Torrence) and his two sons (Donald Crisp, Dudley Digges) are concerned that their homely daughter/sister (Helen Hayes) will end up a spinster since she's still unmarried at the age of 27. To this end, they propose to finance a young student's (Brian Aherne) education if he agrees to marry the plain Jane, six years his senior. But is a business arrangement the good basis for a marriage? Based on the 1908 play by J.M. Barrie (PETER PAN) and directed by Gregory La Cava (STAGE DOOR). The handsome and robust Aherne and the mousy and delicate Hayes (who had played the part on Broadway 8 years earlier) embody their roles perfectly. The movie plays out like a filmed play without being overly stage bound. But the premise is so archaic as to be uncomfortable. It's an era when a woman had no say in her fate which was decided by men, first her father then her husband, when a woman lived through her husband rather than her own accomplishments although the film's argument is that behind every successful man is the woman who got him there. If you can get past all that, the performers are agreeable and there's a certain pleasurable quaintness to the whole project although I suspect even in 1934 it seemed old fashioned. With Madge Evans as the other woman, Lucile Watson and Henry Stephenson. 

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