Mary Howard (Myrna Loy) is a writer who has written a novel about a love triangle. In a case of life imitating art, Mary herself is also stuck in a bit of a mess.
Persistent suitor Jimmy (Robert Montgomery) has been trying to win Mary over and convince her to marry him. But much to Jimmy’s dismay, Mary is attracted to her publisher, Rogers Woodruf (Frank Morgan), who is already married to a woman named Claire (Ann Harding).
Mary and her best friend Bridget (Alice Brady) plan to spend a weekend in the country with Woodruf. Jimmy is convinced that Mary hopes to follow the path of the mistress character in her novel, who eventually receives the blessing of her lover’s wife.
Jimmy becomes determined to get between Mary and Rogers, so he devises a sneaky plan to ruin the trip. He tries to get in the way in any way that he can, including introducing Claire to Mary without revealing who Claire is married to.
Harry Beaumont directs the pre-code comedy When Ladies Meet. The screenplay was written by John Meehan and Leon Gordon, based on the play by Rachel Crothers. It was remade in 1941 with Joan Crawford, Greer Garson and Robert Taylor.
The film opens with a catty banter between Loy and Montgomery’s characters, which sets up a mood of both fun and tension that carries on fairly consistently for the remainder of the film. When Ladies Meet is packed with witty dialogue, especially in the continuously tense relationship between Mary and the suspicious, scheming Jimmy. This makes the film highly entertaining for the viewer.
As for the plot, it centers around a fairly typical love quadrangle: suitor likes girl; girl likes older, charming (and very married) man; suitor tries to sabotage the girl’s relationship with the other man. This is nothing that film fans haven’t seen before, especially from the pre-code era. It follows the trajectory that viewers will expect from the familiar premise, and as a result is highly predictable in terms of plot developments. This doesn’t ruin the film for the viewer, though, since the dialogue and funny moments are carried out so effectively.
The amazing performances of the entire cast also keep the familiarity of the plot from ruining the film for the viewer. Harding and Loy are often praised for their performances here, and those praises are well-deserved. Morgan and Montgomery are also very good in their somewhat dueling roles, and it’s always great to see Morgan showcase his talent in roles other than the great and powerful Oz.
However, my favorite performance in the film came from an unexpected source: Alice Brady in the role of Loy’s widowed, overzealous best friend. Her role is a bit small compared to the others, but she adds so much humor and cattiness to the film that she really stands out.
When Ladies Meet is a film that shouldn’t be missed by fans of any of the performers involved, or by fans of pre-code comedy in general. It’s a wonderful little piece of work, full of talent and wit. The score: 4/5
All images are credited to Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans
This is the most intelligent film of the period that I’ve seen on this soapy dynamic – Harding and Loy’s confrontations are a knock out. I’ll forever be a Harding fan after her performance here.
Morgan’s casting is perplexing, but he does good work and, as you said, Alice Brady does a splendid job of lightening things up.