Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


John Boles and Rosalind Russell
CRAIG'S WIFE (1936). Director: Dorothy Arzner.

"If a wife is the right kind of woman, her destiny should be in her own hands, not her husband's."

In the second film version of George Kelly's Pulitzer prize-winning play (after the silent), Rosalind Russell stars as Harriet Craig, whose home and its furnishings are the most important things in her life, much more important than people. Harriet likes things just so, and isn't above running other people's lives when she feels the need to. When a friend of Walter, her husband's (John Boles), murders his wife and commits suicide, Harriet fears their involvement may cause an unwanted wrinkle in their pristine universe. In the meantime, Walter's beloved Aunt Ellen (Alma Kruger of Saboteur) objects to the way her niece-by-marriage keeps everyone out of her home, and is slowly but surely distancing Walter from all of his friends, and has it out with her. "It isn't an opinion I have of you, Harriet," she tells the younger woman. "It's you I have." Harriet's sister is sick, so she has her own niece, Ethel (Dorothy Wilson), stay with her and tries to run her life as well. Craig's Wife is pretty faithful to the play [unlike the remake with Joan Crawford] but the problem is that Kelly's play is rather dated, and by no means can be seen as having a truly feminist perspective despite some of Harriet's cold if sensible attitudes. The performances are all very good, including Billie Burke as the widowed neighbor, Mrs. Frasier, and Jane Darwell as the housekeeper, Mrs. Harold. Arzner also directed Merrily We Go to Hell.

Verdict: Intriguing at times despite its age, and well-acted by all. ***.

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