Private Lives

Private Lives

Director: Sidney Franklin, Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Reginald Denny

Cast: Sidney Franklin, Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Reginald Denny

     
 
Amanda (Norma Shearer) and Elyot (Robert Montgomery) -- a witty, sophisticated married couple -- divorce and marry other mates. Amanda chooses stuffy Victor (Reginald Denny), while Elyot's selection is the tiresome Sibyl (Una Merkel). Coincidentally, both newlywed couples honeymoon at the same Swiss hotel -- in adjoining suites, in fact. Amanda and Elyot realize anew

Overview

Amanda (Norma Shearer) and Elyot (Robert Montgomery) -- a witty, sophisticated married couple -- divorce and marry other mates. Amanda chooses stuffy Victor (Reginald Denny), while Elyot's selection is the tiresome Sibyl (Una Merkel). Coincidentally, both newlywed couples honeymoon at the same Swiss hotel -- in adjoining suites, in fact. Amanda and Elyot realize anew that the flame of their love has never been extinguished, but when both slip off for a lover's tryst, they fall into their old pattern of ceaseless bickering. When Victor and Sibyl catch up with their erring mates, they themselves begin arguing. Once the point has been made that Amanda and Elyot deserve each other and that Victor and Sibyl are likewise perfectly matched, this elegant comedy of manners draws to a quiet close. A fairly faithful adaptation of the classic Noël Coward stage play (virtually all of the witticisms, notably "Some women should be struck regularly -- like gongs" are left intact, though we truly miss "You're looking lovely in this damned moonlight"), Private Lives is played with such polish and expertise that we're willing to overlook the fact that only one of the four principals (Reginald Denny) is genuinely British.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Based upon one of Noël Coward's wittiest plays, Private Lives is somewhat bowdlerized but still immensely entertaining. In Amanda and Elyot, Coward created a pair of joined-at-the-erotic-hip twins; while there was nothing particularly bawdy about them on-stage, they were still rather too frank (and frankly amoral) to totally withstand the censor's shears on film. Fortunately, the filmmakers were sensitive and judicious in their cutting, with the result that most of the humor -- and more importantly, the flavor -- of the original remains. True, there's a little of the edge missing, but that has more to do with the actors than the adaptation. Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery are slightly too much the movie stars to play the parts with the total honesty that is called for, but their charm, timing, and bearing more than make up for this. Shearer, especially, understands the cadences of Coward's dialogue, but doesn't become enslaved to it. Reginald Denny has Victor's amusing insufferableness down pat, and Una Merkel is a winningly tiresome Sibyl. The movie has been opened up from the stage play, sometimes to good effect, sometimes to little; however, the settings -- especially the glorious Art Deco hotel -- are noteworthy. Sophisticated British comedy is difficult to pull off, but minor flaws aside, this is a winning effort.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/23/2009
UPC:
0883316126929
Original Release:
1931
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Archives
Presentation:
[B&W, Full Frame]
Time:
1:24:00
Sales rank:
3,661

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