The last few days in Los Angeles have been both relaxing and energetic. While I've managed to get in a fair amount of lounging around, I've also taken in a couple of racquetball games as well as a hike in Temescal Canyon. Add a poker night and a games night to the mix and you've got yourself quite an eventful vacation. To cap it all off before I head back to New York and the cold weather, the Golden Globe Awards, which are occurring just a few miles away in Beverly Hills, are just about to begin as I write this.
Earlier this week, while at the UCLA Film & TV Archive, I got the chance to watch a hard-to-find nominee from the 1930/31 Best Picture race...
Tom Barry and Bradley King
(based on the novel by Mrs. Henry Wood)
Ann Harding, Clive Brook, Conrad Nagel, Cecilia Loftus, Beryl Mercer
Pretty young social butterfly Isabella (Harding) is initially excited to marry wealthy politician Robert Carlyle (Nagel), no relation to the well-known Scottish actor. He brings his new bride to live with him at his estate, East Lynne, where his sister Cornelia (Loftus) takes an immediate disliking to her. After a few years, Isabella feels bored in the stifling house, her only stimulation derived from playing with her new son.
Yearning for some fun and excitement while Robert is away, Isabella sneaks off to a fancy ball with an old suitor Captain Levison (Brook). The two share an illicit kiss before Isabella rejects his further advances. But the damage is already done. Cornelia witnessed the indiscretion and blabs to Robert, who, believing Isabella has been unfaithful, throws her out of the house, vowing never to allow her to see their son again.
East Lynne begins as an occasionally bland melodrama, but manages to avoid being completely boring. Its characters are relatively clichéd - the fun-loving wife, the conservative husband, the protective older sister who passive-aggressively makes life miserable for the newcomer. The story, too, is a tad tired - new girl, not accepted by husband's family, tries to deal with stuffy upper class rules and etiquette. It's definitely soap opera material.
Ann Harding (pictured) is possibly the finest part of East Lynne. Her natural performance as the party girl without a party is truly engaging and helps to alleviate the film's flaws. Conrad Nagel as the staid husband also offers an accomplished portrayal if you can get past the heavy lipstick and eyeliner. And Clive Brook as the other man is compelling if only for his unusual cadence. None of the performances received Oscar nominations. Nor did any of the technical or creative elements. In fact, East Lynne's sole nomination was for Best Picture.