In the years before Hollywood submitted to the self-imposed censorship of the Production Code, filmmakers were free to use adultery, prohibition drinking, and sexual double standards to explore the moral complexity of the... more » modern age. Of Human Bondage, John Cromwell's adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel, is the best-known but perhaps least interesting example in this triple-feature set. Leslie Howard stars as the sensitive would-be artist turned medical student who falls in love with a slutty waitress (Bette Davis, who steals the film with her cold-hearted manipulations and shrill cockney accent), allowing his desire for this vicious little tart to control and almost destroy his life. At a brief 80 minutes, the picture leaves little nourishment between the narrative peaks but is always well-acted and handsomely staged. Stalwart Joel McCrea is the working-class engineer who marries a spoiled society girl in Kept Husbands. "Dad, I want him more than anything in the world. Can't I have him?" pleads kittenish Dorothy Mackaill, but the tug of war between his work and her play soon tears them apart. Though the plot is sometimes slow, sparkling society wit and humorous working-class platitudes (croaked out by an always entertaining Ned Sparks) add dimension to the familiar story. Millie, the jewel of the collection, represents everything great about the pre-code era. Sweetly sexy Helen Twelvetrees is Millie, a small-town girl turned big-city woman disillusioned with love, but while she lets the good times roll she never sacrifices her ideals: "I pay my own way," she insists. When a former beau plots to seduce her 16-year-old daughter, however, the worn, sad woman becomes an avenging angel, ready to sacrifice all for the girl. Though highly melodramatic, with adultery and sex to spare, the film drives ahead with wild abandon, with the dynamic Millie centering the drama. --Sean Axmaker« less
Jery Tillotson | New York, NY United States | 05/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Millie" and "Kept Husbands," both made in the very early 30s, are both a delight--a journey into America's past when movies were amazingly frank and frisky. "Millie" is the dramatic show-stopper with the legendary Helen Twelvetrees delivering a powerhouse performance. She's Millie, a weepy, naive young woman who marries a jerk and then she falls for another, bigger jerk. She has a baby who grows up to be a beautiful young woman. You watch Millie being used and dumped by more heels and she becomes increasingly bitter and gradually becomes an alcoholic. By this time, Millie has become a bitter, haggard woman who murders the sleazy heel who tries to seduce her daughter. In the courtroom scenes, Twelvetrees looks amazinly like Susan Hayward in her later years and the movie ends rather abruptly. But the scenes of Twelvetrees defending her daughter will stay in your mind, long after the movie has ended. "Kept Husbands,' is a risque, sophisticated drama, beautifully scripted and acted by Joel McCrae and Dorothy Mackail. Both are delightful as the beautiful young couple who marry for all the wrong reasons. Dorothy wants to "keep" her handsome architect all to herself and arranges a In-Name-Only high priced job with her father's construction empire. Joel is finally repulsed of being a kept husband and flees. The two stars are totally delightful. This is the first time I've seen Mackail and in some scenes, she looks exactly like Marion Davies, a close friend. You can't go wrong visiting the past in these two gems of a by-gone era where women were always beautifully gowned and everyone sat around having cocktails, flirting madly with each other and then slinking off into the boudoir."
The Alpha version of Millie is exceptional.
Prometheus | USA | 08/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Alpha version of Millie is exceptional. The print quality is outstanding and far better than I expected. This is the old Pre-Code story about Mother Love with exceptional performances by Helen Twelvetrees, Joan Blondell, Lilyan Tashman, and John Halliday."
Samantha Kelley | USA | 07/22/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Millie (Helen Twelvetrees) is a young girl jumping into marriage with a man named John (James Hall). Despite her inhibitions, she puts all she has into their relationship and bears a child, but finds that John has been cheating on her. She drops him and soon moves on to Tommy (Robert Ames), a reporter who appears to be very devoted to her. Not the case, as pointed out by Millie's two best friends, lovers Helen (Lilyan Tashman) and Angie (Joan Blondell). Time goes on, and Millie's daughter Connie (Anita Louise) becomes a beautiful young teenager, who unsuspectingly draws glances from men old enough to be her father.
For a pre-code, this film is surprisingly dull. Yes Millie is a woman who has "loved" multiple men who have jilted her, and yes she knows men that try to take advantage of both jaded and naive women, but these things are staples of melodrama, a genre that transcended the production code. The most shocking thing here is the lesbian relationship between Blondell and Tashman, which is only mildly important to the story."
How To Keep a Football Hero
"Tee" | LA | 03/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"KEPT HUSBANDS is a solid telling of an often-told story: spoiled rich girl sees good-looking poor hunk she wants, marries him with predictable marital difficulties down the road deciding who "wears the pants" in the family. When steel heiress Dorothy Mackaill's father invites a much-admired young worker home to dinner, Mackaill and her snooty mother are aghast that someone from the lower classes will be dining with them. Playgirl Dot's attitude changes though when she sees the man in question is hunky Joel McCrea - and when she learns he is the football hero she swooned over in the papers five years earlier, she's out to land him as a husband within the next month. Of course she is successful, getting daddy to promote him to an executive position that is pays a fortune and is pretty much a non-existant job, but not before their lavish honeymoon in Europe where Dottie repeatedly wires Pops for more money and buys $10,000 furs without much of a second thought. Virtuous McCrea can't help but wonder if he is on the way to becoming a counterpart to Mackaill's society friend Clara Kimball Young, who married and emasculated a promising archetect and made him basically her hand-maiden and now treats him with less affection than her pampered pekennese.
This is a smooth little drama that is predictable but goes down that well-worn path very effectively. Dorothy Mackaill, a fairly big star of the day for a period, does very well as the willful heiress and Joel McCrea, in one of his first films, is very dashing and appealing as the honorable man of modest means. Silent movie fans will want to check this out for rare major talking roles from well-known character actress Mary Carr (playing McCrea's mother) and former star Clara Kimball Young. Ned Sparks provides comic relief as the deadpan border at Carr's home who always peppers his comments with famous phrases, often slightly mangled.
This Alpha print is very good to excellent with some imperfections and blotches as well as the occasional broken-film repair with a quick snippet missing. "
Exceptional Pre-Code gem
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 07/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"MILLIE, produced by Radio Pictures Corp. in 1931, is a fascinating Pre-Code marvel starring lovely Helen Twelvetrees in the title role. Another reviewer has already outlined the plot, so there's no need for me to elaborate on that. Suffice to say, if you have a fondness for the movies of Pre-Code Hollywood, MILLIE will deliver a fun evening of entertainment.
Fans of Joan Blondell will love her early supporting role as one of Millie's wisecracking friends; she plays a woman involved in a thinly-veiled lesbian relationship with Lilyan Tashman (a real-life lesbian actress whose few movies are sadly lacking on DVD); she passed away six years after this film was released. MILLIE was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to depict a lesbian relationship.
Helen Twelvetrees is fascinating to watch in the title role. In lots of ways the story is incredibly predictable (and the final reel drags the plot into sickly sweet territory); but it all adds to the charm of the movie. MILLIE will be a great addition to any classic movie collection.
Alpha's DVD is one of the best I've seen from this budget company. The image is a little jittery but it's sharp and stable for the entire duration of the film. The soundtrack is clear and strong, too. Another incentive for checking out this fascinating example of Pre-Code cinema."