Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Age of Indiscretion ( 1935 )

Robert Lenhart's ( Paul Lukas ) book publishing business is suffering from a sales slump. He has to cut back on expenses at the office as well as at home to save enough money to pay his creditors, but his young ambitious wife ( Helen Vinson ) is aghast at the thought of wearing yesterday's clothes and leaves him to marry her wealthy lover Felix Shaw ( Ralph Forbes ), willingly leaving behind their son Bill ( David Holt ).

Robert is heartbroken but accepts the divorce. In the coming year, his loyal secretary, Ms. Bennett ( Madge Evans ), steps into his home life and acts as a surrogate mother to Bill. When Felix's mother ( May Robson ) starts yearning for a grandson she decides to use Ms. Bennett as a pawn to help her win custody of Robert's child. 

The Age of Indiscretion was one of many films MGM released in the early to mid-1930s that dealt with divorce, a common practice among society's rich. Lenore Coffee's story paralleled that of a popular news item of the time involving the Vanderbilt family trust. Instead of a grasping grandmother, it was an aunt who instigated the proceedings of a custody battle for young Gloria Vanderbilt and the four-million dollar trust. 

In this film, Mrs. Shaw witnesses an innocent pillow fight involving Ms. Bennett and Robert and uses it as grounds to obtain custody of Bill. May Robson portrays her usual crotchety character of a tough old dog whose bark is worse than her bite. Unfortunately, her scenes are brief and the reasons behind why she wants Bill are not adequately established. Much of the movie suffers from little incidents that are cut abruptly, leaving the audience to wonder what the motives behind certain actions were. This seems more like an editing error than the fault of director Edward Ludwig. 

Overall, The Age of Indiscretion is quite entertaining with the main draw being its winter setting (  Robert and his son rent a cabin in the mountains during the Christmas holiday ) and its principal cast. Paul Lukas gives a top-notch performance as the innocent publisher and Madge Evans is charming as the young secretary who is harboring a secret love for her employer. In one scene, Robert and she are enjoying an evening cocktail by the fireside on Christmas Eve. They discuss his recent divorce and her private life and, influenced by the scotch, she talks a little freer than usual....but never gives a hint of her true feelings. Nevertheless, Robert begins to see a side of her that he never realized she had. He saw her only as an efficient secretary and never imagined what she was like outside of that capacity. Little scenes like this give the film its sparkle. 

David Holt is also engaging as little Bill, even with his puzzling Southern accent. He was intended to be a male version of Shirley Temple but his career never reached such heights. Also in the cast are Shirley Ross, George Irving, and Minor Watson. 

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