Toronto Film Society presented Friends and Lovers (1931) on Monday, October 17, 1977 in a double bill with The Talk of the Town as part of the Season 30 Monday Evening Film Buff Series, Programme 1.
Production: Company: RKO-Radio. Production Supervision: William Le Baron, Louis Sarecky. Director: Victor Schertzinger. Adaptation: Maurice de Kobra, Wallace Smith and Jane Murfin.
Cast: Adolphe Menjou (Captain Roberts), Lily Damita (Alva Sangrito), Laurence Olivier (Lieutenant Nichols), Erich von Stroheim (Victor Sangrito), Hugh Herbert (McNellis), Frederick Kerr (General Armstrong), Blanche Friderici (Lady Alice), Vadium Uraneff (Ivanoff), Yvonne D’Arcy (French Maid).
Tonight’s second feature is one that the programme committee is particularly pleased to offer as a true film buff’s treat. No undiscovered masterpiece or lost treasure, mind you, but a well-paced film affording a fascinating glimpse at the early career of one of this century’s acting giants, Lord Olivier.
Friends and Lovers was Olivier’s fourth film and his second American made one. Judging by tonight’s film it’s interesting to speculate on the entirely different course his career might have followed had he been happier with film work and with Hollywood. Certainly Hollywood seemed to see him very much in the Ronald Colman, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. mould and the youthful Olivier’s dazzling matinee idol charisma is well exploited in Friends and Lovers. However, after the deadly Westward Passage (an Ann Harding weepie) the following year, Olivier did not return to the Hollywood screen until 1939 with Wuthering Heights though he came very close to partnering Garbo in Queen Christina. The tempestuous Lily Damita is best known as Errol Flynn’s wife, and it’s a surprise to learn she had a fairly extensive film career of her own, primarily in European silents. Her Hollywood career never really got off the ground, despite such films as the 1929 Bridge of San Luis Rey and The Cock-Eyed World. The image of the bombshell and coquette she so well projected are seen to good advantage in Friend and Lovers. Speaking of projected images, brings us to Erich von Stroheim, infamous for his portrayal of swinish, sadistic brutes. His role in Friends and Lovers is tailor made to fit that image and it’s a joy to watch him play “the man you love to hate” to the hilt.
Notes by Glen Hunter