FERNANDO’s CORNER ~ Posted January 6th, 2017
Thanks to a friend, I was finally able to see the long anticipated “Gallant Lady” (1934) (20th Century/United Artists) (Dir: Gregory La Cava) one of Ann Harding’s most famous films of the 1930’s in which she plays an unwed mother who sacrifices herself for the sake of her fatherless child and gives him up for adoption.
The picture demonstrates the range and talent that this great actress possessed, because she was able to raise the level of any material or role, which in the hands of another actress could have been just a routine part, but in this flick, she also had a very good director, the great and forgotten Gregory La Cava. The honesty and sincerity with which she played the noble Sally Wyndham made her a human being to which any of us could relate to, rather than just another character. She played her with an almost introspective quality, conveying all her emotions in a much effective way. In general in this kind of dramatic roles, the key is to underplay and Ms. Harding was very good at it.
Clive Brook has a change of pace, playing a dipsomaniac, rather doomed doctor who befriends poor Sally (and suffers from unrequited love), after her pilot lover dies in a plane crash, leaving her pregnant, penniless and all by herself. Janet Beecher is simply superb as the woman who hires Sally for her interior design business, helping her to build a position in life.
Tullio Carminati is enjoyable as an Italian count who’s in constant pursuit of our Sally and Otto Kruger plays the man who adopts Sally’s child. Mention apart deserves Dickie Moore, one of the best and most natural child performers ever. His scenes with Ann Harding are so effective and well played due to his innate talent; the following year he gave one of his best performances ever in “Peter Ibbetson” (1935), one of the most sensitive and beautiful love stories of all time.
Some years ago I had seen the remake of this film released by 20th Century Fox as “Always Goodbye” (1938) in which Barbara Stanwyck plays Ann’s role, in a very different way, with much more spunk and energy, which I liked very, very much, because she’s one of my top five actresses. But I must say that “Gallant Lady” is superior in atmosphere and treatment of the story. “Always Goodbye” is a much more glamorous photoplay, since instead of the world of interior design it takes place in the fashion design world.
And last but not least in the 1938 film, Johnny Russell, who plays Stanwyck’s son ( in the Dickie Moore role ) is not a natural actor, and comes across somewhat coy and forcedly cute, giving his role a rather overly sweet and sentimental edge.
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