Monday, May 21, 2012

Their Own Desire (1929)

“I was willing you to come to me, and you have. So it's alright, but don't send me away again because I won't go.”
“Send you away? Do you think I want to send you away, Jacky?”

            Their Own Desire… just the title alone sounds like it would be a boring melodrama. Even the poster makes the film out to be one. For the most part Their Own Desire is comedy. Anyone who follows classic actors will hopefully know that Robert Montgomery was well known for his comedic characters in several of his film. Norma Shearer also did her fair share of comedies even though she is more known for her dramas and pre-codes and did very well. Their Own Desire is a mix of comedy and drama which was mixed perfectly.
            Lucia “Lally” Marlett (Shearer) is a rich girl who thinks her life with her parents is perfect. She plays polo with her author father and spends the rest of her time living carefree. After a polo match one day she and father return home to find a friend of theirs named Beth Cheever at their house. Mrs. Cheever is the same age as Lally’s mother with a son Lally’s age as well but looks nothing like it she looks young and very pretty.
            A year later Lally’s father wants to divorce the mother and go away with Mrs. Cheever. Mrs. Marlett did not want Lally to know about the divorce until it was finalized. She was going to tell her daughter that they were just going away to Europe for the summer for a trip. Mrs. Marlett asks Lally to ask her father if he will go with them thinking he might change his mind. Lally gets the shock of her life when she sees her father hugging and kissing Mrs. Cheever. She rips into her father in anger letting him know that the previous New Year’s her mother tried to kill herself because she knew he was out at a party with another woman.
            Before going to Europe Lally and Mrs. Marlett go to visit family in Michigan. While swimming at a pool she meets Jack (Montgomery). They actually meet under the water when he jumped in after Lally fully clothed after she dove in. Once they reach the surface they immediately begin to tease each other. At a party later that night they dance together. Jack scoops Lally in his arms and takes her for a ride in his car.
            Lally and Jack fall deeply in love. One day they take a canoe out to a small cove. Jack says something about his father and who he is. Lally realizes that Jack is Mrs. Cheever’s son she just did not know it before because his mother always called him by his middle name. She lets Jack know who she is and who her father is. At another dance they see each other. Lally tells Jack she does not want to see him anymore even though she loves him. Jack loves her passionately and is very upset when she tells him how she feels. When Jack goes to walk away Lally begins to cry. He turns about, sees she is crying, and goes back to her.
            The next day Jack proposes to Lally. He wants to get married that night. As Lally is packing her mother returns from a trip. Mrs. Marlett tells her daughter that her aunt telegraphed her about the whole situation. She does not want Lally marrying Jack after all they have been through. Mrs. Marlett goes into the bathroom and faints. Lally frantically thinks her mother tried to kill herself but they find out she has just fainted from shock. Lally returns Jack’s ring to him telling him their relationship is over. At night he waits for her outside her window. In the middle of the night Lally opens the window for air and sees Jack waiting for her and runs to him. He wants to take the canoe out to the cove even though it is very late. Unfortunately a wild storm comes around and whips the waters of the lake into a frenzy tossing Lally and Jack overboard. The two lovers are lost for days many people thinking they are dead. Luckily Lally’s father finds them at the cove. Lally is clutching Jack as tight as she can going hysterical when he is taken away from her. He is not moving. Delirious from days of exposure she yells that she wants her father even though he is right next to her.
            Fortunately Jack comes out alright and the first person he asked for was Lally.
            Alright so this sounds like a big soapy melodrama but let me just say that it was great. The drama is not heavy at all and the love aspects of the story are not cheesy at all. Every actor was perfect for the parts they played. Norma Shearer I do not think I have ever seen her act a dramatic part so well as she did when she and Robert Montgomery were found in the woods. Her facial expressions were perfect and her acting was not overdramatic in any sense. Shearer was perfection as she is holding Montgomery and looking up praying to God to let Jack live. Norma Shearer has her moments in some of her films where she is incredible and this scene was one of them and definitely the best. Robert Montgomery was great. He was an actor that you could tell he was comfortable doing both comedy and drama and that comfortableness always comes through in his films. I loved him in the scene when he and Lally first meet he was funny and charming and handsome. Shearer and Montgomery made four films together this film being their first. They had such a great chemistry and they played off of each other so well. No matter their films their characters give and take from each other and both actors give and take from the other wonderfully.
                The reason this film is so good, besides the acting, definitely comes down to the writing. Frances Marion wrote several films for Mary Pickford in the silent era then worked for MGM during the 1920s and 1930s.  Marion either wrote the screenplay or dialogue or the scenario for over one hundred films including several Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo films. Look her up on IMDB and you will notice she helped to write several well known 1930s MGM films as well as some of Mary Pickford’s most popular ones. Frances Marion is quickly becoming one of my favorite old Hollywood screenwriters she was very good. 
               My favorite scene- besides the one where they are found-  is after Jack takes Lally away from the party and he tried to kiss her. She is not reacting to the kiss and he says "I don't seem to register" and she replies "If that's a sample there's no sale." You have to see the scene to understand how funny it is and hear to hear how they say the lines. 
            Their Own Desire is great Pre-code film. So many of the themes in the story would never happen again once the Code was enforced five years later. Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery were great together with their incredible chemistry. It is a great mix of comedy and drama without being boring or too much. Their Own Desire is a well made film not to be passed over. 

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