It's really hard to watch a movie with Marion Davies and not think of the whole "Rosebud" thing. It's also hard to watch her not imagine that the actors and actresses around her wouldn't be just a touch resentful of her star status. As William Randoph Hearst's mistress, she had an entire film production company created to give her a showcase. Of course, as Irving Thalberg's wife, Norma Shearer had a similar degree of unfair advantage. But Shearer won over critics and the public were crazy about her. She would have been a star without being Mrs. Thalberg. The same can not be said for Davies, though as a comic actress, she is actually quite good. Ever Since Eve was her final film and was a fitting movie to go out on. It is a breezy screwball comedy, co-starring Robert Montgomery and the always hilarious Patsy Kelly. I watched this movie for Montgomery and Kelly, but I was impressed with Davies' ability to hold her own in with these top notch comic actors.
Davies retired from Hollywood at age 40 to devote herself to Hearst full-time. Without Hearst's backing, she might have made a very first rate actor, though perhaps never a star. I think she was wise not to try to force her way into the glamor gal roles any more. Hollywood then as now had little room for women over forty who had the misfortune to look their age. Looks are an important part of my assessment of this movie because the entire film is predicated on the conceit that Davies character is so incredibly gorgeous and sexy that her bosses can't keep their hands off of her. She looses job after job because she refuses to submit to sexual harassment. While I'm happy to see the issue of sexual harassment brought up, I think it's a mistake to think that it only happens to pretty girls. Even more offensive is the joking way in which Patsy Kelly is disappointed that her boss is a perfect gentleman with her.
As a solution to her employment problem, she gets an ugly bob wig, a dumpy double breasted suit, some thick glasses and manages to get along fine as Robert Montgomery's secretary. Like those movies where women dress in drag and men find themselves strangely attracted to them, only to be relieved when the ruse is revealed later in the film, Montgomery's character seems drawn to her. Absurdly he doesn't recognize her voice or face when she he meets her dressed in her normal "beautiful" attire. My willingness to suspend disbelief is further stretched by the fact that Davies looks pretty dowdy in the supposedly fashionable wardrobe she wears in this part of the film. Whatever happened to the kind of outrageously glamorous work attire that say Kay Francis would wear? The fitted pencil skirts and short jackets she's wedged into do nothing for Davies. Even the gown she wears in a nightclub scene makes her look lumpy. Maybe it was more than the actors who were resentful and Orry Kelly hated her as well? Hearst moved his production company from MGM to Warner's because Davies was tired of being second fiddle to Norma Shearer. Though she might have lost parts to Shearer at MGM, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have allowed her to go before the cameras like this.
What works in this movie is the script which is frothy and full of dozens of memorable one-liners. Patsy Kelly is a hoot and so is her fiancee played by Allen Jenkins. This is definitely a case in which the secondary couple were entertaining enough to draw my interest away from the leads. Montgomery was charming and funny as usual and he and Davies are quite fun together especially when she is impersonating a plain girl. I couldn't help but wish he would have just fallen in love with her like that. Or better yet, run off with Patsy Kelly.
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