Secret Bride

Dullsville

The Secret Bride (1934)

The Secret Bride (1934)

Barbara Stanwyck is a good example of an actor who is remembered by history as being a real standout performer with many phenomenal movies and roles to her name while still having a list of disappointments on her resume. The same can be said of many stars that eventually rise to a position where they can be choosy with their parts, but everyone has to make a living to start with.

Like Ladies They Talk About and The Bitter Tea of General Yen, The Secret Bride is an easy film on Stanwyck’s list to ignore. At just over an hour in runtime, the movie is horribly rushed, eliminating any chance for a natural ebb and flow of action.

Stanwyck is Ruth Vincent, daughter of the state’s governor. She marries in a town hall the state’s Attorney General Robert Sheldon (Warren William), but before the couple can announce to her father the exciting news, Sheldon is informed that the governor is implicated in a bribery scheme.

Governor Vincent (Arthur Byron) had pardoned John Holdstock, and the latter’s secretary, Willis Martin (Grant Mitchell), is caught by Robert’s investigator depositing $10,000 into Vincent’s personal account. A short while later Holdstock is found to have killed himself. Both Robert and Ruth believe in the governor’s innocence, but they want to prove it before a legislative investigatory committee can impeach him. In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, the couple commit to keeping their marriage secret.

Keeping the nuptials under wraps does not become a problem until Ruth witnesses the shooting of Robert’s investigator Bredeen (Douglas Dumbrille) from Robert’s apartment window. She did not see the shooter but she knows the direction of the shot clears Bredeen’s girlfriend and Robert’s secretary Hazel (Glenda Farrell) of the crime. Ruth insists on staying out of the investigation because it would raise questions as to why she was in Robert’s apartment late at night. At last, however, she must come forward and admit their marriage in court, potentially ruining her husband’s career.

Stanwyck give the performance we would expect of her but does not blow anyone away. William is equally satisfactory in his part, but the story is difficult to appreciate. It is impossible to unweave the crime oneself, and as the action rushes along, we conclude with one character confessing every detail of the convoluted crime. Ruth and Robert seem to be genuinely in love, an accomplishment for the actors, but that has nearly nothing to do with the story, which is essentially a crime mystery. Perhaps the plot would have been more compelling it had analysed the effect on the newlyweds of the investigation. The emotional trauma and rift it could cause would be more dramatic than a complex crime story.

  • The Secret Bride is set for 2 p.m. ET Dec. 13 on TCM.

Breakfast for Two

Gasser

Breakfast for Two (1937)

     The romantic concept underlying Breakfast for Two is a novel one, and although not executed to the best extent, the idea of a woman who professionally attacks a man with the intent to win over his heart is a great one. This brief romantic comedy of little more than an hour in length plays more as a television show that did not have sufficient time to develop the romance between its characters.

     Herbert Marshall as Jonathan Blair is the careless owner of his family’s shipping business, which is on the verge of bankruptcy while the young man enjoys all the spoils of a wealthy bachelor’s life. We start the film with Jonathan waking after a raucous night to discover a young woman has spent the night in his room. This Valentine Ransome (Barbara Stanwyck) had brought the drunk home only to be trapped in his room by the large dog that growled at her every attempt to leave.

     Jonathan is intrigued by the woman and sends her flowers after their breakfast for two is interrupted by the arrival of another young woman after the man’s heart, actress Carol Wallace (Glenda Farrell). Receiving the gift and hearing from her banker about Jonathan’s irresponsible handling of his company, the wealthy Val decides to stay in New York and declares she will make the man her husband. To do that, however, the smart girl starts buying up stock to the Blair company until she is a majority shareholder. Jonathan is outraged to see the business leave the family’s hands and all the more so that this woman is the one to do it.

     Val also moves into the Blair mansion, but the move inadvertently sends Jonathan to live in Carol’s apartment. The man’s financial circumstances also result in his intention to marry the actress. With Jonathan’s valet, Butch (Eric Blore), helping in her scheme, the wedding is twice interrupted. The first is by a ridiculous clan of noisy window washers who keep disrupting the justice of the peace’s (Donald Meek) attempts to wed Carol and “Joe-Nathan”, and the second is by Butch’s presentation of a wedding license allegedly fulfilled on the drunken night Jonathan and Val met. Our couple get their reconciliation after some physical rumbling and the company is restored to the family that built it.

     Breakfast for Two is a quick, fun romp laced with humor eliciting mainly from the character actors of Blore and Meek. Blore’s Butch appears in most scenes and even though playing his typical part of servant, he embodies a much larger role here than in most of his films. Stanwyck brings plenty of levity to the movie as the young and fun woman who seeks to build her target into a respectable man who will fight for his company. Marshall, as usual, derives most of his laughs from witty dialogue, but he and Stanwyck look good as a couple. If more time had been devoted to developing true emotion between the characters, I think it could be a stellar piece. As it stands, however, much of the motivation is skimmed over to the final product’s detriment.

  • Breakfast for Two is set for 10 a.m. ET July 27 on TCM.
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