A fun slice of pre-code Hollywood
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 04/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another fun offering from the Roan Group."Lonely Wives" is listed as Raon's "Pre-Code Hollywood #4; the Risque Years". The movie is not really all that spicy, certainly from today's standards. But there are lots of rapid-fire quips and innuendo that keep the viewer watching (and laughing!).Based on a popular stage play, the 1931 picture tells the story of a man who is an uptight, all-business lawyer by day, but who "blooms" once the clock strikes eight. Richard 'Dickie' Smith likes to go out to the clubs and dally with the ladies while his wife is away on vacation. His bossy mother-in-law tries to keep him on the straight and narrow, but he has other plans.A famous stage impersonator named Felix, "the Great Zero", wants to do a stage act featuring his parody of the famous lawyer. He shows Dickie his make-up, and the two connive to switch places for the evening. When Dickie's wife comes home unexpectedly, havoc ensues! To make matters worse, Dickie is out at The Whoopee Club with a girl who turns out to be Zero's wife!Edward Everett Horton plays both Dickie and Zero. The split-screen effect is almost flawless when the two are shown together. The dialog between the two characters really sells the act, with no hesitation or delays caused by split-screen editing. Very impressive for 1931.Horton will be instantly recognizable. Even if you don't know his face, you WILL know his voice. Most famous for narrating the "Fractured Fairy Tales" segment of "The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show", Horton worked as a character actor for years in radio and television. He starred in such famous films as "Arsenic and Old Lace", "Pocketful of Miracles", "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", "Sex and the Single Girl", and "Springtime in the Rockies". He also starred in "Shall We Dance?", "The Gay Divorcee", and "Top Hat", all with Fred Astaire.While by today's standards "Lonely Wives" isn't anything new, at the time it must have been scandalous fun."
The Great Zero's best performance
Annie Van Auken | Planet Earth | 02/21/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"LONELY WIVES is a 1931 feature that stars Edward Everett Horton in a dual role.
What's most remarkable about this picture is Horton's timing on the several split screens that place him in close proximity to his lookalike, that is, himself. They hold believable conversations with perfectly spaced comments and responses, and seem to be looking at each other the whole time. VERY impressive for 1931.
Here, Horton the rich attorney ('Dickie' Smith) hires Horton the vaudeville impersonator (Felix the Great Zero) to play himself while he slips out at night to carouse. On the town, Dickie meets up with Zero's wife (but doesn't know it). Diane (Laura La Plante) tells him over many drinks (interesting since it's the Prohibition Era and they aren't in a "dive") that she's planning to divorce her husband.
Meanwhile, back at Dickie's Park Avenue digs, Zero is in a panic thinking that Smith's enormous mother-in-law (Maude Eburne) or Dickie's wife (Esther Ralston) will know he's not Atty. Smith. Faking whooping cough to avoid any close contact with them, he goes to bed. The plan is for Zero to secretly leave the apartment during the night before Dickie comes home, but the interfering mother-in-law locks all the doors to keep "Dickie" from wandering out.
The real Smith shows up, not realizing that Zero hasn't left yet, and there's several near-misses of them being seen together. In combination however they drive the poor family butler (Spencer Charters) to drink, and at 9 am!
Speaking of loaded, Zero's still woozy wife shows up unexpectedly after riding around in a taxi all night and ringing up a $50 tab. Diane hopes her lawyer (Dickie) will have the cash.
And the story gets even crazier. The pace picks up, people dash everywhere, up and down stairs, trying to avoid an angry cabbie (Maurice Black), the suspicious mother-in-law, and so on. Meanwhile Andrews the butler is so blitzed he can hardly stand up anymore. After finally seeing Smith and Zero simultaneously, he lets out that long-anticipated scream!
This nearly forgotten little gem will absolutely delight all fans of Pre-Code movies.
"Lonely Wives" is available on MCE's COMEDY KINGS 50 MOVIE PACK."
Edward Everett Horton fans, take heed...
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 04/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I picked this up because Edward Everett Horton is one of my favorite 1930s character actors, and I was curious to see him in a lead role. This zany sex farce isn't the greatest drama (or comedy) ever made, but it has its moments... Horton plays a dual role in this one, as a high-strung celebrity attorney who turns into a lecherous playboy when the clock strikes 8:00, and as "The Great Zero," a vaudeville impersonator who winds up switching identities with the the lawyer, so that he can give his meddling mother-in-law the slip and go out and paint the town. Not much of a premise, even for a screwball comedy, but two things give this film its sparkle -- the fine job done in the trick editing for all the scenes where Norton plays opposite himself (technically, pretty good for the time...) and the endless sexual innuendo, much of which is surprisingly frank, and some of which is quite funny. It's a silly film, rather inconsequential, and slow-moving at first. It picks up speed, though, and is mildly diverting... Worth checking out if you are an EEHorton fan."