This Modern Love (1931)

Film Review

THIS MODERN AGE

Release Date: 29 August, 1931

Studio: MGM

Director: Nick Grinde

Starring: Joan Crawford, Pauline Frederick, Neil Hamilton, Monroe Owsley, Alfred Conte

Synopsis

Visiting Paris from her home in New York, Crawford reunites with her mother, Frederick. They have been separated since Crawford was a child. Frederick lives in a house owned by her lover, Conte. Frederick does not want Crawford to learn that she is Conte’s mistress, and he moves out before Crawford’s arrival. Crawford meets Frederick’s friends, including chronic drunkard Owsley. He wants Crawford to become his lover, but she refuses. He is fun company, however, and she goes partying with him. The drunken Owsley crashes their car, and Hamilton rescues them. Hamilton is visiting Paris with his rich, high society parents. Hamilton and Crawford, immediately attracted to each other, fall in love and become engaged.

During a dinner for Hamilton’s parents at Frederick’s house, Owsley and a wild group barge into the party. Conte also arrives, and Hamilton is shocked to learn that Frederick is his mistress. Hamilton denounces Frederick and asks Crawford to marry him at once. She refuses angrily and tells him to leave. Frederick and Crawford move into a small apartment and attempt to make a new life for themselves. Crawford hides her unhappiness, but Frederick knows that she still loves Hamilton. In order to free Crawford, Frederick goes back to Conte. Crawford, angry and confused, decides to live the same kind of life as her mother. She goes to a hotel with Owsley. At this point, Hamilton takes charge of the situation. He makes up with a repentant Frederick, and she leaves Conte. Hamilton goes after Crawford and carries her out of the hotel. Crawford finds her mother in Hamilton’s car, and they all go away together.

Discussion

This film is obviously intended for Crawford’s female fans who came to empathize with her romantic problems and to admire her Adrian-designed clothes. The film has several unusual aspects for a Crawford vehicle of the time. She plays a trusting and naive young woman, rather than the worldly-wise skeptic she often portrayed. The film has a second major female role. Frederick, a veteran and persuasive actress, plays an experienced, jaded woman. Although the plot centers on the two women, neither is capable of solving their problems, and the leading man takes control of both of them.

Crawford was not advantageously cast as a passive and naive young female, and the film lacks the vitality expected of a pre-Code Crawford picture. Between 1930 and 1940, Grinde directed several B-level feature films a year. This film and Shopworn (1932, starring Barbara Stanwyck) are his only A-level efforts. Perhaps the heads of MGM also thought the film lacked punch.

Neil Hamilton was handsome but an unimpressive, actor. Compared to Robert Montgomery and Clark Gable, he was deficient in force and sex appeal and rapidly faded as an MGM leading man.