The Bride Wore Red (1937):

Chanteuse Joan Crawford, plying her trade nightly at a Trieste honky tonk dive, suddenly finds herself among bluebloods when cynical nobleman George Zucco, in the midst of his gambling and debauchery routine, decides to prove his heredity-vs.-environment theory by introducing her as a fancy lady. Plopped at a swanky mountain resort and fed into Adrian gown after Adrian gown, she has but two weeks to infiltrate the aristocracy by wooing engaged playboy Robert Young -- though, of course, her heart belongs to boringly poetic postman Franchot Tone, whose ostentatious humility serves as constant reminder of the nobility of papuperly life. Dorothy Arzner's souring Cinderella saga was originally planned as an adaptation of Molnár's The Girl From Trieste with Luise Rainer, before MGM sheared off the prostitute angle, sprinkled trademark luxury and parachuted in La Crawford in the role that would tag her "box-office poison." Sandwiched between the more consistent questioning of imposed female roles in Craig's Wife and Dance, Girl, Dance, the movie's gilded romance (not to mention its spurious enshrinement of peasantdom) gives Arzner little elbow room for her customary dissonance. Inevitably compromised, the picture nevertheless flashes some intriguing notions of image-building and image-orchestrating from a woman's viewpoint not dissimilar from that same year's Angel, Lubitsch's equally jeered study in societal role-playing. Produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Billie Burke, Reginald Owen, Lynne Carver and Dickie Moore. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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