|Lady by Choice (1934)
Run time: Approved | 76 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director: David Burton
Writers: Jo Swerling, Dwight Taylor
Stars: Carole Lombard, May Robson, Roger Pryor
Taglines: Men who loved her grew sadder – but WISER !
Lombard plays a publicity mad dancer who attempts to convert old sot Robson into a model of motherly respectability.
1) The original run time for this movie was 85 min. 9 minutes is currently unavailable in the current print available today.
2) While many cast members in studio records/casting call lists did not appear or were not identifiable in the 76-minute print available today, they were left in the cast list because of the missing 9 minutes
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Carole Lombard plays a fan dancer (working under the moniker "Alabam, the Human Heat Wave") who hooks up with a haggardly, dice rolling, beer guzzler named Patsy when she adopts her out of the "old ladies home" as her new mother, a publicity stunt for Mother's Day. Moving in with Alabam into her swanky apartment, the two women soon bond over shots of straight whiskey, Alabam buys the old lady a new wardrobe, then both try to reform the other of their bad ways. And yes indeed, there is a male love interest for Lombard, a character who fits somewhat loosely into this whole plot.
Interesting film, the first half better than the second, I thought, but I do like the interaction between Carole Lombard and May Robson who plays Patsy – they come across as pretty chummy, which works well for this story. Lombard appears in a number of gorgeous outfits here, everything from glamorous, fur-sleeved dress to satin rompers (how 'bout that ragged old hat with the dead bird hanging off it that Patsy wears in the beginning?!). Worth seeing.
May Robson plays a boozier and meaner version of Apple Annie from her prior film, LADY FOR A DAY (directed by Frank Capra), though it is essentially the same character with a different name. My assumption is that the studio head (Harry Cohn) just couldn't resist reprising the character since she went over so well the year before in the Capra film.
Robson's character, Patsy, has already been arrested seven times this year for being drunk and disorderly and by now the judge has had enough and forces her to go to an old folks home. However, Patsy isn't the type to retire and when she sees a chance to escape, she does. That's because publicity seeking fan dancer, Carole Lombard, decides to do a publicity stunt and adopt a sweet old lady (complete with the press and photographers on hand to get the story). However, while it originally was done on a lark, Lombard likes the idea of doing this for real and so she keeps Robson on hand to try and reform her and give her life purpose.
However, despite her intentions, it ends up that Patsy is Lombard's benefactress. After winning a lot of dough gambling, she pays to give Lombard singing, acting and dancing lessons. When this doesn't pay off, she sets her sights to helping Lombard get control of her life. But, when Lombard sets out to snag a rich lawyer just because he was rich, Robson and Lombard have a falling out and you'll just have to see the rest of the film to find out what happens next.
The film has some excellent acting and is a nice breezy film. It's neither as deep or satisfying as LADY FOR A DAY, but is still well worth seeing. A nice romantic fantasy film.
Carole Lombard plays a Sally Rand type fan dancer and May Robson does her Apple Annie role again in Lady By Choice, a nice comedy from Columbia with overtones of Frank Capra in the making. At Columbia seeing Frank had come up with a winning formula, Harry Cohn was looking to copy it wherever he could. Who knows he might have put Capra's name on it for the foreign market like he did with If You Only Could Cook and Capra never found out.
In Lady By Choice, Lombard's press agent, Raymond Walburn, gets an idea for Mother's Day for Lombard to adopt a little old lady. So she goes to a senior citizens home and picks out May Robson, a gin guzzling old woman in the tradition of Apple Annie. Robson comes not only with her gin, but with a young attorney from a wealthy family, Roger Pryor who's been charged by his late father to serve as some kind of guardian angel for her when she gets tanked up and rowdy. Robson's in need of a lawyer especially when she's in court in front of Judge Walter Connolly.
It's not Lombard's greatest role, but she does well with it. May Robson is merely starting where she left off in her Academy Award nominated Lady For A Day that was directed by Frank Capra. The only weakness in the film is Roger Pryor who's a rather insipid type in a role that called for someone like Joel McCrea. A nice choice by TCM to run for Mother's Day.
This movie was a sequel of sorts to Capra’s "Lady for a Day" and in it May Robson reprises her Apple Annie character. Indeed May Robson steals the show and gives by far the best performance. This film would be Carole Lombard’s last with Columbia pictures. As with her film, "Brief Moment" her director at Columbia was David Burton and the character actor Arthur Hohl is on board again as costar, here playing her crooked manager.
Carole Lombard’s performance is fair. She is trying hard and keeps herself animated, but seems to come up just short. She seems to suffer from a bad case of "over-acting". However, since she is playing a "bad" actress from the wrong side of town, I can’t say this is too troubling. The story is complex and on the whole the acting is fine, so overall the viewing experience is pleasing and worth repeating. The ending does tug at your heart-strings and the resolution is well thought out. The characters examine their own faults and are able to take advantage of opportunities to grow…with a little help along the way.