The Divorce of Lady X

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The Divorce of Lady X
Film poster
Directed by Tim Whelan
Produced by Alexander Korda
Written byGilbert Wakefield (play)
Lajos Bíró (adaptation)
Ian Dalrymple (scenario)
Starring Laurence Olivier
Merle Oberon
Binnie Barnes
Ralph Richardson
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Lionel Salter
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Edited by Walter Stokvis
Color process Technicolor
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • 15 January 1938 (1938-01-15)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$500,000 [1] or £99,000 [2]

The Divorce of Lady X is a 1938 British colour romantic comedy film made by London Films; it stars Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Binnie Barnes. It was directed by Tim Whelan and produced by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by Ian Dalrymple and Arthur Wimperis, adapted by Lajos Bíró from the play Counsel's Opinion by Gilbert Wakefield. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa and Lionel Salter and the cinematography by Harry Stradling. [3]


The film was made in early three-strip Technicolor and is a remake of the 1933 film Counsel's Opinion , also from London Films and in which Binnie Barnes appeared in the role played by Merle Oberon. [4]


Stranded by a thick London evening fog, Leslie Steele, a young, pretty but madcap socialite, barges her way into Everard Logan's hotel room. He promptly registers one objection after another, but all of his efforts to evict Leslie are to no avail. He thus agrees to a compromise, allowing her use of the bedroom, while he takes another room in the same suite.

However, at breakfast the next morning, Logan changes his tune regarding Ms. Steele and insists they meet again. But while he's out of the room, dressing, she mysteriously bolts for home, which she shares with her grandfather/judge. He informs her that Logan is a barrister specializing in divorce cases. The zany, impulsive Ms. Steele then tells her grandfather she intends to marry Lawyer Logan. To her surprise, she learns that Logan will be pleading a case before her grandfather's court that day, so she attends the proceeding to observe her intended in action – and to her further surprise, sees him mercilessly rip to shreds a woman accused of adultery.

As Leslie and Everard spend the rest of the film struggling to adjust to each other's whims and differences, a subplot involving Lord Mere, one of Logan's clients, is interwoven into the complicated plot-line. A confusion of identities ensues, as at one point, Logan is led to mistakenly believe that Leslie is actually Lord Mere's wife. But after a weekend fox hunt at the lord's manor, all conflicts are satisfactorily explained away, and the two lovers are reconciled.

In fact, by the story's end, Leslie has successfully transformed Everard from the inhumane, hostile, woman-browbeating counselor she witnessed earlier in the film into a more empathetic, understanding, sensitive courtroom-interrogator of "the gentle sex".


Critical reception

The reviewer for Variety wrote, "Alexander Korda’s Technicolored comedy is rich, smart entertainment," and also praised the acting: "Oberon impresses. Olivier does his role pretty well, retarded somewhat by an annoying bit of pouting business. Two key performances which sparkle are those of Ralph Richardson and Morton Selten." [5] whereas more recently, Leonard Maltin called the film a "Cute but extremely dated screwball comedy,"; [6] and the Radio Times found the whole thing "quite a daft and inconsequential way." [4]

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  1. "The Divorce of Lady X (1938) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies.
  2. Karol Kulik, Alexander Korda: The Man Who Could Work Miracles, Virgin 1990 p 209
  3. "The Divorce of Lady X (1938)".
  4. 1 2 "The Divorce of Lady X – review - cast and crew, movie star rating and where to watch film on TV and online". Radio Times.
  5. Variety Staff (1 January 1938). "The Divorce of Lady X".
  6. "The Divorce of Lady X (1938) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies.