Evelyn Prentice (1934)

The Thin Woman

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Movies like Evelyn Prentice give me one of the greatest satisfactions I get from watching films; discovering an obscurity from an actor’s filmography which I end up considering to be one of their finest films. Myrna Loy superbly carries Evelyn Prentice , dominating majority of the screen time, with William Powell delivering one of his finest dramatic turns, while seeing Rosalind Russell in her screen debut is just a mere bonus. Russell doesn’t have a whole lot to do but she still comes off as a memorable screen presence despite this, although it is a little odd hearing her speak in an English accent and not at a machine gun rate. Loy and Una Merkel make for a fun duo, with Merkel having a very memorable comic sounding voice. Just the deco of Evelyn Prentice itself makes me love this film more, whether it’s a smoke filled night club, the lavish interior of Powell and Loy’s home to even the clothes worn in the film (the costume department really knocks this one out of the park), sucking me into the world of the 1930’s.

Scenes such as the family exercising or the father and daughter playing piano together helps humanize them, making me more fearful that a character played by the sweetheart Myrna Loy could be going to prison, or maybe get the electric chair! The tension builds as the film progresses. The scene in which a witness arrives at the Prentice household while Evelyn is present to describe the women she witnessed leaving the murder scene, this women of course being Evelyn buy nobody else knows that, feels like the type of moment you would get from a Hitchcock movie. In fact the entire premise of the movie could be given the Hitchcock treatment.

I often feel like Hollywood make being a lawyer look like the coolest job ever. Even if John Prentice (William Powell) is missing time from his family, his turn during the film’s courtroom climax makes the profession look like a constant flow of hair raising excitement. The film’s final twenty minute courtroom sequence had my heart pounding, eating up every minute of its melodramatic glory while screaming in anticipation to how the characters are going to get themselves out of this situation.  At the same time however I was tense that the movie would pull the characters out of their intense dilemma in a contrived manner, I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed. The outcome of the case is movie fantasy but it didn’t feel like a cop out. Throughout this sequence Powell and Loy do some of the finest acting work of their careers. Myrna Loy is generally not highly regarded as a dramatic actress but I would defy anyone say otherwise as she lays on the tears and the passionate pleas. I must also give credit to Judith Wilson, whole also left an impression during these proceedings. As a fan of Powell & Loy partnership and courtroom dramas, their third film together satisfied more than I could ask for. Manhattan Melodrama, The Thin Man and Evelyn Prentice all in one year, ain’t too stingy.

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