Pre-Code Crazy: Private Lives (1931)
My Pre-Code Crazy pick for the month of November is Private Lives (1931), starring the totally awesome Norma Shearer and the always fantastic Robert Montgomery. In the interest of full disclosure, I have already written about this film on my blog, and under normal circumstances, that fact would automatically disqualify a film from Pre-Code Crazy consideration (for me, at least).
But this is an unusual circumstance. Because Private Lives is FREAKING AWESOME, and if I didn’t take this opportunity to recommend that you watch it, well, I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
The film starts with two weddings taking place at the same time. One is an elaborate, pricey affair between Elyot (Montgomery) and Sybil (Una Merkel), and the other, a simple ceremony before a Justice of the Peace, unites Amanda (Shearer) and Victor (Reginald Denny). As it turns out, Elyot and Amanda used to be married to each other, but they divorced after three tumultuous years. As it also turns out, both couples wind up honeymooning at the same French hotel, and just happen to have suites right next to each other.
We learn, shortly after meeting the two sets of newlyweds, that theirs are not exactly matches made in heaven. Elyot is laid back and easygoing, while Sybil is shrill, shallow, and insecure. And while Amanda is fun-loving, impetuous, and passionate, Victor is serious and practical, and about as engaging as a basket of rocks.
After the couples settle into their rooms, Elyot and Amanda discover each other’s presence via their conveniently adjoining balconies. They at first exchange only stilted pleasantries, but it doesn’t take long for the two to realize that they are still madly in love, and they rashly decide to run away together, leaving their respective new spouses behind.
Elyot and Amanda don’t have to travel very far before we realize why they’d been unable to stay married. As Elyot put it, they were “so ridiculously over in love.” And, just it had during their marriage, this love-abundance quickly manifests itself in a series of conflicts. This time, though, the couple has the foresight to take practical steps to put the kibosh on their quibbles before they blossom into brawls.
It works, for a while, as Elyot and Amanda flee to a cozy chalet in the Alps and bask in the glow of rekindled love. But when one off-hand comment by Amanda leads to hurt feelings from Elyot, the lovers wind up in a knock-down, drag-out fight, complete with shrieks, slaps, and broken furniture. It’s like something you’ve never seen before. (And it is HILARIOUS.)
Eventually, Sibyl and Victor – who have joined forces in search of their absent spouses – catch up to Elyot and Amanda, and more hijinks ensue (including a breakfast scene that literally makes me laugh out loud every time I see it). But I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself.
Suffice it to say that I cannot be more emphatic when I urge you to tune into Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, November 10th and feast your eyes upon the cinematic smorgasbord offered by Private Lives.
P.S. After the movie, feel free to click here for lots more of what I have to say about this fabulous film!
And when you’re finished over here, be sure to pop over to Speakeasy to find out what Kristina has selected for her Pre-Code Crazy pick of the month!