Movie Critique - The Last of Mrs. Cheyney

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: An otherwise amusing story with certain flaws or weak links in characterization, it is entertaining, charming and chaotic; all at once filling the viewers senses. 

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney is a 1937 American comedy-drama film starring Joan Crawford, William Powell, Robert Montgomery and Frank Morgan in lead cast. The film was adapted from the 1925 play of the same name by Frederick Lonsdale. Screenplay was provided by Leon Gordon, Samson Raphaelson and Monckton Hoffe.

Mrs. Fay Cheyney (portrayed by Joan Crawford), her butler Charles (portrayed by William Powell) and her plethora of servants are actually operators who have a gig, at the end of which they steal from the mark and escape. However this time their mark, Lord Arthur Dilling (portrayed by Robert Montgomery) and his family becomes a thorn in Fay's heart; as she starts to care for them. 

First directed by Richard Boleslawski, George Fitzmaurice took over when Boleslawski passed away during the middle of the making of the film. And when Fitzmaurice fell ill it was taken over by Dorothy Arzner. Although the credits show only Bloeslawski as the director. 

The only reason I ended up watching the film was because of William Powell. I figured he would be the love interest for Joan Crawford's Mrs. Fay Cheyney. But it ended up being different. It was just surprising to see Powell in a secondary role, although he is credited equally with Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery. He does play a good part on the other side of the law even though he also mediates between lovers.

I have never seen Joan Crawford's movie till now. She is an excellent actress no doubt. And she did make a charming and chic jewel thief along-side William Powell. However, I kept seeing thorns all around that beauty she carried along. May be the role warranted it or she herself is like that by nature, but she came across very prickly…a pretty prickly one though.

Robert Montgomery's Lord Dilling, the third wheel in the tale is as charming as he come, but a total cad as they keep telling him. Montgomery slipped into the cad role pretty easily so much so that you only see the cad. I believe I heard Montgomery in the radio episodes I am listening to on Old Time Radio Podcasts, but he sounded very different on film vs radio which is unusual.

We see Nigel Bruce as Lord Willie Winton, again his typical bumbling and stumbling character, except he is an English Lord in this trying to get his friends in trouble and at the same hiding it from his wife, finding immense pleasure in all the teasing going on around him and at the same time oblivious of what is actually going on in his married life.

The opening credits show the three leading stars over a photograph of them. Yet when it came to the actual role in the film, Powell did have considerably lesser part than the other two. However, I would say that his was more effective of the three.

I felt like I was slipping in and out of a Jane Austen novel vs a heist movie. The humor part well placed by both Powell and Montgomery. But from Crawford I felt it more staged than being in the character. May be because I felt her surrounded by thorns perhaps didn’t appreciate it. It was well made until the last 20 minutes of the film. After that it went crazy, muddy and confusing chaos. 

An otherwise amusing story with certain flaws or weak links in characterization, it is entertaining, charming and chaotic; all at once filling the viewers senses. A smash hit from old time, definitely something you can watch even now sitting on your couch.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Two more versions of the movie were made - the 1929 with the same title as this film; 1951 The Law and the Lady.

b. The original play was also played by London Productions in the 1980s with Joan Collins in the role of Mrs. Fay Cheyney.


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