US / 61 minutes / bw / Chesterfield, Batcheller Dir: Charles Lamont Scr: Charles Belden Cine: M.A. Andersen Cast: Vivian Tobin, Dickie Moore, Cora Sue Collins, Russell Hopton, Harold Huber, Paul Fix, Sarah Edwards, Jamison Thomas, Mary Carr, Robert Elliott, Bryant Washburn, Barbara Bedford, Robert Frazier, Lloyd Ingraham, Broderick O’Farrell, Jane Keckley.
It’s 1928 or 1929. Formerly a celebrated Broadway actress, Lola Weymouth (Tobin) now lives with her milquetoast socialite husband John (Fix) and her baby son Tommy (uncredited at this age). The marriage is troubled by the fact that John is work-shy and the couple are living off whatever of his inheritance his termagant mother Lucille (Edwards) chooses to let them have. John lacks the guts to support his wife against his mother; it’s partly that he hasn’t let go of her apron strings, partly that she hasn’t let go of the purse strings.
Weak-willed John (Paul Fix) can’t face up to his mother (Sarah Edwards).
One night after a row between Lola and Lucille, the young couple leave Tommy in the care of his nurse (uncredited) and go out on the town, meeting up with various of Lola’s quondam Broadway chums. One of these, unfortunately, is a very drunk old flame of Lola’s, Checkers Fraley (Huber). He picks a fight with John, knocks him down, and inadvertently kills him.
Checkers goes off for a long spell in the pen, while a viciously spiteful Lucille Weymouth sues for sole custody of the child. In the courtroom Lucille perjures herself blithely, sobbing that she and her late son were abominably treated by Lola and that John was hoping to arrange a separation from his wife. The judge (Ingraham), either bought or stupid, sides with Lucille and Tommy is taken away entirely from Lola—who doesn’t even have visiting rights.
Lucille (Sarah Edwards) testifies tearfully in court, complete with strategic handkerchief.
One day Lola pauses on the Street outside Mrs. Warren’s Nursery. As she watches the children, she comes over faint. She’s caught as she staggers and brought inside by the nursery’s assistant, Martha Rankin (Bedford).
Lola (Vivian Tobin) is captivated by the sight of children playing.
The nursery’s kindly owner, Mrs. Warren (Carr), on hearing Lola’s story, promptly hires her—but under her maiden name, Lola Allen, so that no one will know who she is; after all, it wouldn’t look good if a woman who lost custody of her own child was found to be looking after a whole troupe of children. (Since Lola made her name on Broadway as Lola Allen, and everyone in the world knows that Lola Weymouth was the former Lola Allen, this stratagem to conceal her identity seems ill thought-through. But apparently it works.)
Mrs Warren (Mary Carr) is Lola’s savior.
The years pass and Mrs. Warren decides to retire, leaving the nursery to Lola. At about the same time, Lucille Weymouth discovers that her lawyer, Jerome Rogers (Thomas), has committed suicide after having embezzled almost all of her fortune. The shock is enough to send her to the Mountain View Sanitarium. Family physician Dr. Jarvis (O’Farrell) puts Tommy (Moore) into a nursery—in fact, by wild coincidence, Lola’s nursery—registering him under the name Tommy Jarvis so no one will know his circumstances. Tommy soon falls in love with both Lola and a little girl his own age, Pat Collins (Collins), whose widowed radio-announcer father Hugh (Hopton) is falling in love with Lola. When the subject of the Lola Weymouth scandal is brought up, though, he’s unequivocal in his judgement: “I’d say she got what she deserved.”
Two moppets together (Dickie Moore and Cora Sue Collins), falling in lurve.
The news comes that Checkers Fraley has busted out of the joint. Soon enough he tracks Lola down and blackmails her into letting him hide out in the nursery attic. The stage is set for Tommy and Pat to go up there one evening in search of old clothes with which to play dressing-up . . .
Checkers (Harold Huber) comes bursting back into Lola’s life.
Rich in suds, this is not by any stretch of the imagination a good movie, but it’s a very entertaining one. There’s plenty of plot to keep the proceedings rattling along and, while some of the supporting performances stumble rather than stride, the principals cope fairly well—as do Bedford as the nursery assistant, Cora Sue Collins as one of the moppets and Edwards as the mother-in-law from Hell.
Lola (Vivian Tobin) and Hugh (Russell Hopton) — it’s clearly written in the stars.
Tobin is the primary attraction here, though. Known primarily for her work as a comic actress, in this movie she manages to convey moments of frailty, self-reliance, assertiveness and just plain charm in a performance that’s hardly the stuff of legend but is highly personable: we’re rooting for her from the opening sentences of her first confrontation with her mother-in-law, and we never stop.
This is a preliminary offering for this month’s Crimes of the Century, hosted by Rich Westwood at his Past Offences blog.
On Amazon.com: The World Accuses DVD