|The Common Law|
Theatrical poster of film
|Directed by||Paul L. Stein|
|Produced by||Charles R. Rogers|
|Screenplay by||John Farrow|
|Based on||The Common Law|
by Robert W. Chambers
|Starring|| Joel McCrea |
|Music by||Arthur Lange|
|Edited by||Charles Craft|
The Common Law is a 1931 American pre-Code romantic drama film, directed by Paul L. Stein and produced by Charles R. Rogers. Based on Robert W. Chambers' 1911 novel of the same name, this was the third time the book was made into a film, and the first during the talking film era. The sexual drama stars Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea in the title roles. It was received well both at the box office and by film critics, becoming one of RKO's most financially successful films of the year.
Valerie West is a young American expatriate living with her wealthy lover, Dick Carmedon, in Paris. Tired of the relationship, she moves out, after which she meets struggling American artist John Neville. She begins posing nude for him. At first the relationship is purely business, but the two soon fall in love, and she moves in with him. The two begin to live an idyllic life, despite Carmedon's attempts to get Valerie back.
Unbeknownst to Valerie, Neville is a member of a wealthy, socially prominent family from Tarrytown, New York. Sam, a friend of Neville's, tells him about Valerie's past relationship with Carmedon. Valerie confirms it is true, but states that she left Carmedon before she met Neville. Disillusioned, Neville changes his mind about proposing to her. Valerie calls him a hypocrite and breaks up with him.
Later, Neville runs into Valerie at a nightclub, where she is out with Querido. Neville leaves in disgust. Valerie follows, jumping into his taxi and going home with him. Very soon, he proposes marriage. She asks him to wait, wanting to make sure that their feelings for one another are for real before making what she hopes will be a life-long commitment. When Clare Collins, Neville's sister, hears about the situation from friends returning from Europe, she informs Neville that their father is very ill (he only has a cough) and insists that he return home.
Neville brings Valerie with him to the family estate. Clare throws a party on the family yacht, to which she invites Carmedon and an old girlfriend of Neville's, Stephanie Brown. Neville's father tells Valerie he approves of her; he can see that his son is happy and more confident. Fed up with Clare's obvious attempts to split up the couple, Valerie turns in for the night. A drunk Carmedon barges into her stateroom, but she pushes him out, in full view of Clare. Neville helps Carmedon to his room and, behind closed doors, punches him. Then, he informs Valerie that they are going to find a justice of the peace to marry them.
Robert W. Chambers' 1911 novel was a best seller in the 1910s, and was called by some "as the most daring piece of writing that Chambers ever turned out".
The novel had already been made into a film twice during the silent era, both with a Selznick producing. The first, in 1916, was produced by Lewis J. Selznick starred Clara Kimball Young and Conway Tearle. Lewis was the father of David O. Selznick. David's brother, Myron, would remake the film, this time in 1923, in which Tearle would again star, this time opposite Corinne Griffith.
In February 1931, RKO announced it had purchased the rights to Chambers novel. Charles R. Rogers made the announcement, as well as stating that Constance Bennett would be the star of the film, and that John Farrow would be adapting the screenplay.Production on the film was to be scheduled to begin as soon as Bennett finished shooting on Lost Love, however, due to an illness for Bennett, the start of production was delayed slightly. In mid-March, it was announced that Paul L. Stein would helm the film. By the end of March, more roles were cast, with Joel McCrea, Lew Cody, Gilbert Roland, Walter Walker, Marion Shilling, and Robert Williams being assigned to the film. By this point, the only major role still to cast was that of Neville's sister, Clare. The final major role would be cast in the beginning of April, with Hedda Hopper being chosen to play Clare. The Common Law went into production in mid-April 1931. Gwen Wakeling, who was the head of costuming for RKO, designed the costumes. Small roles would go to Erin La Bissionaire, Julia Swayne Gordon, Nella Walker, and Yola d'Avril in the role of Fifi. Margot De La Falaise, the wife of the Comte Alain De La Falaise, made her film debut in this picture, also in a small role. Alain was the younger brother of RKO's chief of French film versions, Henri.
During production a yacht built for American financier, E.H. Harriman, was used as the setting for film's climactic scene.One of the most expansive scenes in the film, where Neville runs into Valerie a month after she leaves him, was set at a nightclub during the famous Four Arts Ball, which was held annually in Paris. Many of the female extras in the scene had to wear full body makeup due to the scantiness of their costumes. By mid-June, shooting on the film had wrapped.
Williams' appearance in this film would lead to him signing on as a contract player with RKO.
Marion Shilling remembered the way Bennett monopolized McCrea's time during the production. "She had a mad crush on Joel McCrea. The rest of us were just pieces of furniture to her. The minute the director yelled cut, Connie would yank Joel to her portable dressing room, bang the door and not reappear until they were again called to the set."
The film premiered at the Mayfair theater in New York on July 17, 1931; and was released nationally the following Friday, on July 24.The publisher of Chambers' novel, Grosset & Dunlap, re-issued it in a special edition which featured a picture of Bennett on a wrapper; the books were prominently featured in sales displays to coincide with the film's opening.
The New York Age gave the film a very positive review, calling Bennett's performance, "matchless".While praising the performances of Bennett and McCrae, as well as singling out the scene at the Four Arts Ball, The Film Daily gave the film a lukewarm review, stating that "... the story itself doesn't produce much of a dramatic punch due to lots of talk and little action." The Reading Times gave the film a glowing review, calling Bennett "superb", and the rest of the cast "excellent". Modern Screen called the film a "lavish production", and gave high marks to Bennett and the rest of the cast, stating "The star and an excellent cast imbue the old tale of artists and models with an up-to-date flavor, and the problem presented is one that will ever hold popular appeal." Another favorable review was given by Motion Picture Daily , calling it a "sophisticated drama", and praising the performances of Bennett and McCrae, although they did counsel that the film was not suitable for children. Photoplay also warned against bringing children to see the film, and while they lauded the performances of Bennett, McCrea, Hopper, and Cody, they did not think much of the film, calling it a "poor adaptation of Robert Chamber's best seller". Screenland rated the film one of their "Six Best Pictures of the Month" in October 1931, and Bennett's performance one of the ten best. Silver Screen magazine merely gave the film a "good" rating.
The sexual relationships became an issue for the Hays Commission, which was in its infancy at this time in the pre-Code era, since the film promoted non-marital sex.
According to RKO records, the film made a profit of $150,000.The financial success of the film led to a new weekly record being set for RKO theaters in August 1931. The Common Law was one of the few financial successes for RKO Pictures in 1931.
Gregory La Cava was an American film director of Italian descent best known for his films of the 1930s, including My Man Godfrey and Stage Door, which earned him nominations for Academy Award for Best Director.
Joan Geraldine Bennett was an American stage, film, and television actress. She came from a show-business family, one of three acting sisters. Beginning her career on the stage, Bennett appeared in more than 70 films from the era of silent movies, well into the sound era. She is best remembered for her film noir femme fatale roles in director Fritz Lang's movies, including Man Hunt (1941), The Woman in the Window (1944), and Scarlet Street (1945), and for her television role as matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the gothic 1960’s soap opera Dark Shadows.
Joel Albert McCrea was an American actor whose career spanned almost five decades, appearing in more than one hundred films. These films include Alfred Hitchcock's espionage thriller Foreign Correspondent (1940), Preston Sturges' comedy classics Sullivan's Travels (1941), and The Palm Beach Story (1942), the romance film Bird of Paradise (1932), the adventure classic The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Gregory La Cava's bawdy comedy Bed of Roses (1933), George Stevens' romantic comedy The More the Merrier (1943), William Wyler's These Three, Come and Get It and Dead End (1937), Howard Hawks' Barbary Coast (1935), and a number of western films, including Wichita (1955) as Wyatt Earp and Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962), opposite Randolph Scott.
Common law is a legal system named after judge-made law, which plays an important role in it.
Reginald Sheffield was an English-born American actor.
Val Lewton was a Russian-American novelist, film producer and screenwriter best known for a string of low-budget horror films he produced for RKO Pictures in the 1940s. His son, also named Val Lewton, was a painter and exhibition designer.
What Price Hollywood? is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film directed by George Cukor and starring Constance Bennett with Lowell Sherman. The screenplay by Gene Fowler, Rowland Brown, Jane Murfin, and Ben Markson, is based on a story by Adela Rogers St. Johns and Louis Stevens. The picture's supporting cast features Neil Hamilton, Gregory Ratoff, Brooks Benedict, Louise Beavers and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson.
A Star Is Born is a 1937 American Technicolor romantic drama film produced by David O. Selznick, directed by William A. Wellman from a script by Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell, and starring Janet Gaynor as an aspiring Hollywood actress, and Fredric March as a fading movie star who helps launch her career. The supporting cast features Adolphe Menjou, May Robson, Andy Devine, Lionel Stander, and Owen Moore.
Bed of Roses (1933) is a pre-Code romantic comedy film co-written and directed by Gregory La Cava and starring Constance Bennett. The picture was released by RKO Radio Pictures with a supporting cast featuring Joel McCrea and Pert Kelton.
The Easiest Way is a 1931 American pre-Code MGM drama film directed by Jack Conway. Adapted from the 1909 play of the same name written by Eugene Walter and directed by David Belasco, the film stars Constance Bennett, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Marjorie Rambeau, Anita Page, and Clark Gable
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a 1938 American drama film produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Norman Taurog who had previously directed Huckleberry Finn (1931) with Jackie Coogan and Junior Durkin. The film starred Tommy Kelly in the title role, with Jackie Moran and Ann Gillis. The screenplay by John V. A. Weaver was based on the classic 1876 novel of the same name by Mark Twain. The movie was the first film version of the novel to be made in color.
Primrose Path is a 1940 film about a young woman determined not to follow the profession of her mother and grandmother, prostitution. It stars Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea. The film was based on the play of the same name by Robert L. Buckner and Walter Hart and the novel February Hill by Victoria Lincoln.
Bird of Paradise is a 1932 American pre-Code romantic adventure drama film directed by King Vidor and starring Dolores del Río and Joel McCrea. Based on the 1912 play of the same name by Richard Walton Tully, it was released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Rockabye may refer to:
Rockabye is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film directed by George Cukor. The screenplay by Jane Murfin is based on a play by Lucia Bronder.
Katharine "Kay" Brown Barrett was a Hollywood talent scout and agent beginning in the 1930s. She is most famous for bringing Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind to the attention of David O. Selznick, for whom she worked, in 1936. She had a long career as representative, talent scout and agent with Leland Hayward, MCA and International Creative Management ("ICM").
The Lost Squadron is a 1932 American pre-Code drama, action, film starring Richard Dix, Mary Astor, and Robert Armstrong, with Erich von Stroheim and Joel McCrea in supporting roles, and released by RKO Radio Pictures. Based on the novel The Lost Squadron (1932) by Dick Grace, the film is about three World War I pilots who find jobs after the war as Hollywood stunt fliers. The much-later The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) employed a similar theme. The Lost Squadron was the first RKO production to carry the screen credit "Executive Producer, David O. Selznick".
Married and in Love is a 1940 American film directed by John Farrow.
Born to Love is a 1931 American pre-Code melodrama film, directed by Paul L. Stein from an original screenplay by Ernest Pascal. It starred Constance Bennett, Joel McCrea and Paul Cavanagh in a lovers' triangle set in London during World War I. It was only the second film produced by RKO Pathé after the merger of the two studios, and according to RKO records, it made a profit of $90,000.
The Common Law is a 1923 American silent drama film directed by George Archainbaud and starring Corinne Griffith and Conway Tearle. Based upon the novel of the same name by Robert William Chambers, the film was produced and released by Selznick Pictures Corporation.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Common Law (1931 film) .|