Man of the World

Dullsville

Man of the World (1931)

     Some actors are meant for comedy, some for drama. William Powell and Carole Lombard separately are quite adept at both, but it seems a crime to pair them together in a drama. The duo made Man of the World the same year they would marry,  however briefly; although, their characters in this film do not discover as happy a fate.

     Powell is con man/blackmailer Michael Trevor. He has been living in Paris for four years after his career as a newspaperman in the U.S. was halted by some sort of scandal involving a woman and he “taking the fall.” He visits Harold (Guy Kibbee), who has been enjoying a business trip, and informs him the rascal publisher of an English-language scandal newspaper has nailed the man as having dinner with an unsavory woman. To avert the news getting out, Harold asks Michael to pay him off. Howard’s daughter, Mary (Lombard), is visiting Paris with a man she might one day commit to marry. She runs into Michael after the financial exchange but is ignorant of the transaction.

     With boyfriend Frank (Lawrence Gray), Mary runs into Michael at a restaurant and the group opt to wander to a non-tourist restaurant for a late meal and start up a friendship. Michael and his con pals Irene (Wynne Gibson) and Fred (George Chandler) see the friendship as the set up for another haul, and Michael reluctantly agrees to woo the young woman while her suitor is out of town.  The two fall in love, Michael for the first time, and the con man decides to tell her of his profession and give up the lifestyle. She is anything but taken aback by the news because she knows it will remain in his past. The trouble is, as Irene points out, that past will eventually catch up with Michael and he will land in jail. Ultimately, the two go their separate ways, Mary with Frank and Michael with Irene.

     One of five films Lombard had released in 1931 (and one of two with Powell), Man of the World has her as the usual good-girl glamour type, although I dislike the dark eye makeup that was typical style for the time but not what the actress would wear later on. Powell would play a charming criminal, also not atypical for him. The story, however, is short and a bit dull. The romance is poorly developed and the conflict minimal. I will give kudos, however, to the flick’s ending. Far be it for Hollywood to keep the subjects of a romantic plot away from each other at film’s close, but that is precisely what Man of the World does. Your typical romance would have had the couple finding some way to be together or randomly bumping into one another at the close, solidifying a relationship that would be doomed if it extended beyond the credits. To sum up, My Man Godfrey is the logical choice for a Lombard-Powell pairing and an option that should not be strayed from.

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