Paula Bradford (Jean Arthur) is a mystery writer and wannabe sleuth. She has come to the apartment of her ex-husband, Dr. Lawrence Bradford (William Powell), to get his opinion on her latest theory. Jockey Eddie Sands died suddenly during a major horse race, and Paula aims to prove he was murdered.
Reluctantly, Dr. Bradford agrees to examine Eddie’s body. He’s never liked Paula’s hobby of getting involved in murder cases. In fact, it led to their divorce. But Dr. Bradford may be forced to overcome his disdain for his wife’s hobby when, as more bodies turn up, he becomes a suspect!
Stephen Roberts directs 1936’s The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, a mystery/comedy in the vein of The Thin Man… starring Mr. Nick Charles himself, William Powell.
The Ex-Mrs. Bradford is bolstered by the ever-lovable talents of Eric Blore, Jean Arthur, and William Powell. As expected, there is plenty of great banter between Arthur and Powell — the two players in a marriage torn apart by the wife’s obsession with murder mysteries. Both give wonderful performances.
The film’s fun premise is nicely scripted, to go along with those great performances. Mystery, comedy, and suspense are blended just about as successfully as I’ve ever seen it done. The elements come together so well, from the photography, to the story, to the direction, to the genre-blend concoction. The Ex-Mrs. Bradford is just an overall entertaining watch, very cute and fun.
Though the lead performances and premise lend themselves to a high level of enjoyability, the film is really made memorable by its fascinatingly unique murder weapon: [SPOILER] a black widow spider in a melting capsule! At one point the culprit appears to be some poisoned gelatin, before the sneaky spider plot is revealed. I felt my fear of aspic validated… and later, my fear of spiders. [END SPOILER]
A delight from start to finish, with a dash of death thrown in for good measure, The Ex-Mrs. Bradford is a film I would certainly recommend to any mystery fan.