Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1929)

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney
Director: Sidney Franklin
USA 1929
94 min

Norma Shearer plays the rich widow Mrs. Cheyney, who flirts her way into the high society company of Mrs. Wynton. Mrs. Cheyney has two admirers by the name of Lord Elton (Herbert Brunston) and Lord Arthur Dilling (Basil Rathbone). Lord Elton is slow, boring and stupid, while Lort Dilling is an attractive and witty playboy.
What the members of the high society don't know is that Mrs. Cheney and her friends, pretending to be her servants and she making up a story that she comes from Australia, are after Mrs. Wyntons expensive pearls. When Mrs. Wynton hosts a party Mrs. Cheyney is invited to a chaos begins with two men expressing their feelings for Mrs. Cheyney, her mixed feelings of guilt and obligation and the tricky task of getting ahold of those pearls.

This charming and entertaining film contains so many great lines and fine acting (with Hedda Hopper as one of the high society women) that I just can't, or won't, explain it. It is however very easy to see why this was Basil Rathbone's break through part, and why so many producers noticed him after viewing him in this film. That combination of sophistication, witticism and charms is immortal, and Rathbone if anyone knew how to do it.

The chemistry between Norma Shearer and Basil Rathbone works very fine, Rathbone being rathboney and Shearer being the gracious bad girl with every man wrapped around her little finger. I was fascinated by the scene where Rathbone tries to get a night alone with Shearer, locked into her bed room, by threatening her to tell about the plans of stealing the pearls if she refuses. I guess his request is more between-the-lines in the 1937 version!

The version of this film from 1937 stars Joan Crawford, William Powell and Robert Montgomery, and I must admit that I haven't seen it yet. I wonder if Crawford can live up to Shearer, but I'm sure that version is good too. You can fnd the first of eleven parts of it on Youtube if you click here.


Lord Arthur Dilling: By marrying I can make only one woman miserable. By remaining single I can make so many happy.

Fay Cheyney: How disappointing you look in that dressing gown.
Lord Arthur Dilling: Oh, and I chose the one that suits me best. How depressing; it must be me.

Lord Elton: Tell me about Australia.
Fay Cheyney: Oh... yes... to be sure... You've, eh, been there of course?
Lord Elton: Why no... no... Unfortunately... heee heee heee!
Fay Cheyney: Well! You see, whenever we are having winter there, you're having summer here.
Lord Elton: Jolly, eh... And the flower, the fauna...?
Fay Cheyney: Oh yes, we have trees and flowers and... eh... kangaroos! You know, hopping all about.

Fay Cheyney: You're seriously saying that you want to marry me?
Lord Arthur Dilling: Oh no, I shouldn't say that. Eh, don't misunderstand me. To me, the idea of marriage has always been the death and burial of romance.

Fay Cheyney: There are three reasons for me to want to marry you, Arthur.
Lord Arthur Dilling: Being?
Fay Cheyney: One - I like you terribly.
Lord Arthur Dilling: Are the other two important?
Fay Cheyney: Two - It would be such fun to go to tea with all that you haven't married.
Lord Arthur Dilling: And the third?
Fay Cheyney: I should be some sort of a widow again within a year.

A Swedish film poster for The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1929).


Christopher said...

I love that picture of Basil and Norma Shearer in the Car.
THis one looks like fun..I love it when men and women let the "barbs" fly in these old talkies!

Lolita of the Classics said...

See it, if you can get ahold of it! It is very amusing. Unfortunately, the copy I got my hands on had a very bad sound recording, but it was watchable. I hope their might be a restored version of the films somewhere!

ReeMia said...

Even with poor quality, I'd love to see it, but can't find it ANYWHERE. :(
Any chance of getting it from you?