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A Matrimonial Bed


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Everyone else who commented on this film on imdb prior to myself did so between Dec 30, 2003 and early January 2004. That would lead me to believe that everybody saw it on TCM during that timeframe - and not before and not since. That's a shame, since it is a very unusual and interesting precode. So, when WHV says there is no real demand for many of their precodes on DVD they should remember that it might be because few people have ever seen them.

 

This 1930 film is a French farce, but the pace and dialogue are very characteristically pre-code Warner Bros. Leading man Frank Fay is unremembered today, and he had a meteoric rise to fame courtesy Warner Bros. and matching meteoric fall courtesy the public's response to his films. Watching him today I just think he was given the wrong kind of roles. I think he pulled the part off of the amnesiac hairdresser very convincingly with just the right balance of comedy and pathos. It is quite touching when he realizes that he has been considered dead for five years and that his wife's affection is lost to someone else whom he strongly dislikes and he sings "their song" to her just once more in an attempt to woo her back. However, Mr. Fay was not a dashingly handsome man, and I think the fault lies at the feet of the Warners for trying to turn him into a musical comedy version of Clark Gable. The absolutely most tiresome part of this film is all of the women who knew Fay's character before his "death" in the train wreck declaring "What a man! What a man!" whenever they look at his portrait. There are title cards with the same statement at various points in the film declaring the same thing just in case the audience forgets what a desirable hunk of man Fay is supposed to be.

 

Lilyan Tashman lends strong support as the first wife's current best friend and lover of Trebel (Fay) the hairdresser, not knowing he has a previous identity. The catty rivalry between Tashyman and the wife's maid (Marion Byron) is priceless pre-code stuff if only we could forget who they are fighting over (Fay) - it is too much of a suspense of belief. James Gleason still has some color in his hair as he plays the second husband of Trebel/Noblet's first wife, one who greatly resents all of the "What a man!" comments. Here he shows what made him one of the great character actors of the 30's and 40's.

 

P.S. has anyone else who might have seen this film happen to notice that when Fay and Gleason finally have a showdown and strip down to their underwear to duke it out that they are wearing exactly the same underwear?? It is as strange as the elephant with the question mark painted on it in "Manhattan Parade", another Warner Bros. precode that has had only one airing as far as I know.

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