|Wife Wanted (1946)
Run time: 73 min | Crime, Drama
Director: Phil Karlson
Writers: Caryl Coleman, Sidney Sutherland
Stars: Kay Francis, Paul Cavanagh, Robert Shayne
Carole Raymond (Francis), a film star with her best years behind her, decides to join a real estate partnership with a man who, unknown to her, is in fact running an illegitimate matrimonial service which defrauds and blackmails lonely people, using her as bait.
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The last of Kay Francis’ "Monogram Trilogy" WIFE WANTED is an absorbing film that holds your attention throughout. The film has atmosphere, with dark edges and a mildly convoluted plot. Francis plays a "fading star" (a better title for the film) who dabbles in real estate. She then discovers she’s been duped and co-erced into a lonely-hearts club rackett(after a murder that could implicate her takes place). Francis produced the film and acquired the talents of former co-stars Paul Cavanaugh (from 1931’s TRANSGRESSION)and Veda Ann Borg (from 1937’s CONFESSION), among others. Teala Loring (Debra Paget’s sister), as a duped, down-and-out actress, overplays her part to the extreme, which had the audience howling at a recent showing of the film in San Francisco (11/7/01). Francis looks quite chic and lovely in many scenes, especially in a nightclub sequence, bejeweled and in an amazing white fur. A great musical selection by jazz pianist Edgar Hayes as he maneuvers through a cocktail lounge on wheels is a film highlight. One has to admire Francis’ guts and performances in her Monogram films. She underplays to great effect, especially in ALLOTMENT WIVES and this long lost "gem" WIFE WANTED.
Not bad at all for a "Poverty Row" production. Have always wanted to see one of Kay Francis’ "Monogram Trio". Fairly good story line involving a dating agency she invests in and which leads to all sorts of complications. Also, plenty of familiar faces in support – the faces you know but can’t put a name to. Kay looks as ravishing as in her heyday and plays her part in a mostly beautifully subdued way. Unfortunately the print I have is not very good, but, considering she was 47 at the time, this may even compliment her. Not a single wrinkle to be seen!! Well worth watching if you’re a Kay Francis fan. A real collector’s item.
"Wavishing" Kay Francis is still striking to look at in her last film, even if stills from this movie make her look older than she actually comes off. Having searched for this film forever, I wasn't expecting much, having heard it was probably the weakest of her three Monogram films, the other two being "Divorce" (her as a home wrecker) and "Allotment Wives" (head of a crime ring), and here playing the heroine as she had been cast for years at Warner Brothers where at one time, she was the highest paid star there, and thus, their biggest, even if box office results weren't always tops.
The problem with "Wife Wanted" is its messy plot line involving a lonely heart's club racket with murder in its method. Kay is blackmailed into becoming a part of it and sets up her "employers" for a fall. Taking in "drama queen" Teala Loring, Francis becomes the target of the boss's cynical secretary (Veda Ann Borg in a delightful hard-boiled performance) while Loring contemplates suicide every time Francis is out of her very lavish art deco apartment. Loring is so over the top that at times, she doesn't seem real at all, sort of reminding me of the Phyllis Brooks character from "The Seventh Victim" with pretty much everything other than the scary hairstyle.
Made with just a touch of "noir", "Wife Wanted" is a curiosity piece simply because of its rarity and its place in the career of Ms. Francis who was too busy with theater after this was made to consider returning to film at this point and for some reason, never did. I consider this the weakest of her three Monogram films because of its convoluted structure. The three films are among the best looking of Monogram's movies, mainly because the producer was a former "A" list movie star whose name alone stood for fashion and style.
Kay Francis (Carole) is an actress who is getting no parts and is persuaded to invest in real estate by Paul Cavanagh (Caldwell) so that he can use her wealthy connections. However, she is soon drawn into his other side-racket which involves blackmailing wealthy clients as they join a dating agency. Francis has no option as Cavanagh has set her up as the guilty party in the murder of Barton Yarborough (Walter Desmond) and he holds this over her. Journalist Robert Shayne (Bill Tyler) is suspicious and joins the agency to solve the mystery of the dead man and meets with Francis.
The film is rushed in parts, for example, the ending just happens all of a sudden. That's that. The film is also, sadly, a bit boring. It starts well but then just gets a bit confusing and dull. The best of the cast is evil Veda Ann Borg (Nola) who plays Cavanagh's partner and heads the dating agency racket. We needed far more from her and far less from Teala Loring (Mildred), a victim of the agency scam, who is appalling. This woman can not act. And it's great when she falls down the stairs. The story has an interesting premise that could have been so much better.