Director: Edward H. Griffith
Cast: Constance Bennett, Loretta Young, Janet Gaynor, Paul Lukas, Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alan Mowbry, Simone Simon
Three working women decide to rent a large apartment together in a nice neighborhood in Budhapest to impress their male suitors. Yoli (Bennett) is a sophisticated model who wants a wealthy husband. She’s dating John (Lukas), a rich man who’s on an extended vacation, who doesn’t seem interested in marriage. Susie (Young) is a showgirl who falls for a nobleman (Power), and gets her heart crushed when she finds he’s already engaged. Martha (Gaynor) is former nobility whose family lost everything and is now performing odd jobs, like feeding rabbits for Rudi, a handsome psychiatrist. She gets a full time job working for an arrogant magician (Mowbry) and her romantic feeling get all mixed up.
There’s nothing particularly original about Ladies In Love. By 1936, the “three girls share and apartment and deal with complicated love lives” thing was well, well worn. And films like Beauty For Sale and Our Blushing Brides did do it better, though this one is better than The Greeks Had a Word For Them (though this one does lack Madge Evans). It’s not nearly as difficult or depressing as those first two films. It’s much more of a comedy/light romance, and though Loretta Young’s heartbreak does lead to a slightly dark place, in the end it is resolved happily. This film is really much more focused on the love lives of these women, and not so much about the world going on around them, so it is perhaps unfair to really compare it to those superior films.
All three actresses are stellar. It’s really a treat to see Janet Gaynor, Loretta Young, and Constance Bennett pal-ing around, drinking champagne, and dishing on men on the same screen. Bennett plays the sophisticated, probably older, seemingly wiser one with so much presense. Young is, as always, completely delightful playing the naive young showgirl. The bliss of new love is clear on her face, and the heartbreak even moreson. Gaynor is also delightful, completely adorable even nearly 10 years after her star making performance in Seventh Heaven. Her’s is probably the most entertaining side of things. Her scenes with Mowbry are very funny, and her developing romance with Ameche is genuine and very sweet.
The boys don’t really match the girls, but they aren’t supposed to. Paul Lukas has the most screentime, and probably gives the best performance of the men. His storyling with Constance Bennett is a bit heartwrenching, watching them love eachother, feeling like they can’t say it out loud, and he does sell his side of it. Ameche doesn’t get a lot of screentime, but he’s very funny and sweet with what he has. Mowbry is awesome as always, over the top perfection. Tyrone Power probably has the least amount to do, but he looks good doing it.
There is a strange, potentially distrubing twist thrown in when Simone Simon shows up. She’s Lukas’ cousin or niece or something by marriage, and she quite clearly has a massive crush on him. But it’s hard to guage how old she is. She behaves childishly and he treats her as such, and then… well….. they way it turns out is a little bit squicky.
Overall, Ladies in Love is a bit of a missed opportunity as far as the weight of the storytelling goes, but I don’t want to unfairly judge it as something it’s not. As a light comedy, it’s pretty delightful/
By Katie Richardson