|A Notorious Affair (1930)
Run time: Unrated | 69 min | Drama, Romance
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Writers: Audrey Carter, J. Grubb Alexander
Stars: Billie Dove, Basil Rathbone, Kay Francis
A poor but talented violinist (Rathbone) marries a wealthy socialite (Dove) against her family’s wishes. London’s most daring horsewoman (Francis) comes to the rescue by making him an overnight sensation on the stage—and in her boudoir.
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in her first all-talkie film is ok but miscast as the English rose who loses her violinist husband (Basil Rathbone) to a predatory womn (Kay Francis, who steals the film). Billie Dove tries hard and her acting isn’t really bad, but the accent comes and goes. At one point she mentions something as being "versa-till" which doesn’t sound all that British. Kay Francis is fun as the sexual predator and looks as gorgeous as Dove. Dove’s talkie career lasted only a few years and consisted of about 10 films. She’s much better (in a supporting role) in 1932’s "Blondie of the Follies" with pal Marion Davies.
Patricia Hanley (Billie Dove) married violinist Paul Gherardi (Basil Rathbone), despite the strong disapproval of her father and their high society friends. Dramatics ensue.
Billie Dove is the only saving grace of this movie. Her charm, beauty and engaging presence make this dull soap opera watchable. Less watchable is Basil Rathbone, who is miscast as a romantic leading man. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. or even Phillips Holmes would have been much better in the role. Kay Francis, as the other woman, acquits herself nicely, with her best films yet to come.
It should be noted that this film is one of Billie’s few surviving Warner Bros./First-National talkies. For example, her four 1929 films are lost! Still, if you are a Billie Dove fan, you might enjoy this one.
It's a credit to silent screen star Billie Dove that she actually manages to keep Kay Francis from walking away with this movie. It's a great role for Kay, as the lecherous Countess Balakireff, with some killer dialogue ("I never noticed you had pale blue eyes before. I hate pale blue eyes").
Dove, as heiress Patricia Hanley, elopes with starving violinist Paul Gherardi (Basil Rathbone), throwing away her family, fortune and fiancé in the process. Gherardi promptly begins an affair with the predatory Balakireff, as well as achieving fame and what is apparently a load of cash. When Balakireff throws over Gherardi, he suffers a nervous breakdown and is tended to by Dr. Alan Pomeroy, (Kenneth Thomson) Mrs. Gherardi's former fiancé.
Rathbone tries hard — in fact, it's amazing that he remained so trim with the amount of scenery he was chewing. But Dove and Francis steal the movie from him effortlessly. It's the lovely Dove, with her luminous eyes, and the ravishing Francis that raise this film above the typical precode programmer.
Special credit goes to Thomson, who comes off as a complete loser in the opening scenes, only to return in the latter part of the film as a credible potential love interest. Also noteworthy is the gown Francis wears in the Christmas Carol scene, with a neckline that plunges to her waist.
The plot here is thin, but the team of Dove and Francis make it an interesting diversion.
I found this movie remarkably modern, even given it’s early filming. Kay is quite the vamp, yet gives a nuanced performance. Billy Dove is gorgeous and, is it just me, or does she have the biggest eyes ever? Rathbone shows substantial range. Usually cast as a "strong" character with no flaws, he is clearly able to show a weaker side of himself.
I loved some of the direction in this film. Great scenes, such as one where Billy returns home early from the theater. Her walk toward camera is perfect, as is the score that accompanies it. Throughout the film, the score is strong, yet understated…a rare occurrence on many early films, where sound was OVERUSED just to prove it was there!
Bottom line, this is an excellent film.