Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Feb. 22, 2020, Biography of a Bachelor Girl

This week’s mystery movie was the 1935 MGM film “Biography of a Bachelor Girl,” with Ann Harding, Robert Montgomery, Edward Everett Horton, Edward Arnold, Una Merkel, Charles Richman, Greta Meyer, Willard Robertson and Donald Meek.

Screenplay by Anita Loos, additional dialogue by Horace Jackson, based on a play by S.N. Behrman. Musical score by Herbert Stothart, recording by Douglas Shearer, art direction by Cedric Gibbons, Joseph Wright and Edwin B. Willis, gowns by Adrian, photographed by James Wong Howe, edited by William S. Gray.

Directed by Edward H. Griffith.

“Biography of a Bachelor Girl” has never been commercially released. The movie aired in 2013 on TCM during its tribute to Anita Loos and will air March 18, 2020.  The film has its problems but definitely deserves to be seen.

Biography of a Bachelor GirlAn ad for “Biography of a Bachelor Girl” in Motion Picture Herald, Dec. 15, 1934.

I picked “Biography of a Bachelor Girl” based on a rave review in the Hollywood Reporter and despite the general disapproval of Motion Picture Reviews, published by the Los Angeles branch of the American Assn. of University Women, which gave a well-deserved bashing to “Life Begins” and “A Child Is Born.”

The script was based on “Biography,” by S.N. Behrman, which played on Broadway for 267 performances in 1932-33 with Ina Claire and Earle Larimore in the leads, and 16 performances in 1934, with Claire and Shepperd Strudwick in the leads. Mystery guest Charles Richman is the only one from the Broadway cast to appear in the film. (The production received a middling review from the New York Times’ Brooks Atkinson). The play has also been performed in Southern California several times, with leading ladies Alice Brady (1934) and Eve Arden (1947).

The film, fortunately, is not terribly stagey (see “Life Begins”) and entertaining, though it treads familiar ground. A jaded, cynical magazine editor (Robert Montgomery) wants to buy the rights to the life of portrait artist Marion Forsythe (Marion Froude in the play) on the belief that her many amorous conquests will entertain the magazine’s “moron” readers. He, of course, falls for her, and adding to the mix is one of her old loves (Edward Everett Horton – I know, I know) who is now engaged to a prominent socialite (Una Merkel) and is wealthy, respectable and considering a run for political office. Will her memoirs be published, ruining her old beau’s political ambitions? And the script is off and running – to a rather abrupt ending, though the final scene is quite nicely done.

Robert Montgomery does fine as jaded, slow-burning editor Richard Kurt who reveals that he is at heart tender and deeply wounded. As Marion Forsythe, Ann Harding is called on to be beautiful, sensitive, empathetic with a strong dose of living – and loving – for  the moment. She is quite beautiful in James Wong Howe’s photography, and manages sensitive and empathetic without problem, but pulling off the devil-may-care nature of a presumably Bohemian “free love” artist is beyond her.

Compensating for all of that is Edward Everett Horton’s over-the-top performance as twitchy, double- and triple-taking Leander “Bunny” Nolan. I’m a huge fan of Horton and I can’t think of anyone who could pull off so much nervous twitching and rapidly changing expression — he is a walking inferiority complex.

Edward Arnold is tossed into the mix in an odd role for him – a kindly, world-wise, sage commentator on the action.

The most curious aspect of the film, and it’s an odd one, is the abrupt ending. I haven’t seen the play, but Brooks Atkinson noted (Dec. 13, 1932) that the Broadway production seemed “strangely attenuated.”

As you might expect, the Hays Office massively disapproved of such goings-on and getting to the play to the screen was a challenge. The AFI entry on the film has more information.

The Hollywood Reporter said:

Miss Harding is herself again and she’s a joy, the picture is a pleasure, and the production is an entertainment you can’t afford to miss. It’s an elegant adaptation of a stage play by Anita Loos and Horace Jackson, so smoothly, so expertly, so painlessly directed by E.H. Griffith that you want the serio-comic mood to last forever instead of being over in a mere hour or so. Book it, book it big by all means, it’s a treat for the customers….

There are so many delightful moments so well worked out in the writing, so deftly accomplished without ever dragging humor in by the heels just for a laugh and keeping the love scenes keyed to the proper romantic pitch, that Anita Loos and Horace Jackson earn themselves an enormous pat on the back. It’s one of the best movies ever made from play material.

Motion Picture Reviews (January 1935) said:

Much ado about whether or not to publish the diary of a girl artist who has startled the world with her reputed love affairs. Ann Harding, always lovely, is her charming self, though somewhat miscast as a lady with a sensational reputation. Robert Montgomery, of the winning smile, plays the part of a misanthropic young man, and Edward Everett Horton is rather less funny than usual. The picture suffers from an unnecesary amount of dialogue and lack of action, but may have been better as a play. It is superficially entertaining, pleasant, but a disappointing medium for a talented cast.

Andre Sennwald of The New York Times (March 2, 1935) said:

In the cinema edition of S.N. Behrman’s play “Biography,” Miss Ann Harding encounters some difficulty in pretending to be the wise and joyous artist whom Ina Claire interpreted so agreeably on the stage three seasons ago. Mr. Behrman, you may remember, defined his heroine as a “big laissez-faire girl,” and Miss Claire made her a generous, witty and gallant lady who dissolved the conflicting hates of her various friends in the warm sunshine of her own personality. Unhappily Miss Harding, as she reveals herself on the screen, is not temperamentally of that breed, tending on the contrary to be a coolly intelligent, iron-willed and slightly superior lady who causes the male of the species to shiver with foolish embarrassment under her chill and capable stare. Nor is Robert Montgomery, whose talent is for pleasant exterior comedy, any more at home as the venomous radical editor whom Earle Larimore played with such belligerent skill on the stage.

The superficial nature of the photoplay is best indicated by the change of the title to the titillant “Biography of a Bachelor Girl,” which tells all you need to know of the talkative and rather terribly meaningless work which traces its ancestry dubiously to Mr. Behrman’s play.


Feb. 17, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Monday, we have a mystery woman. In what may be a first, she disapproves and yet approves of such goings-on.

Update: This actress is unidentified in any resource I can find. It is always my hope that the Brain Trust will be able to add a name. Various names were suggested but in every case, the actress was never recorded as working at MGM in 1934. This actress and the one who follows get brief but excellent screen time – a close-up and some lines. A little more than a screen test or some minimal exposure.

Feb. 18, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Tuesday, Monday’s mystery woman has two mysterious companions. This is mystery companion No. 1. She approves of such goings-on.

Update: Our mystery actress is one of what Eve Golden calls “the Say gals,” who flourished in 1930s films and were always given the line “Say, you must have invented the crimped bottle cap” or “Say, I’ll bet you know how to send a telegram to the North Pole.”

Feb. 18, 2020, Mystery Photo

And this is mystery companion No. 2. She is uneasy, but generally approves of such goings-on.

Update: This is Gertrude Sutton.

Feb. 19, 2020, Mystery Photo

For “Hm Wednesday,” we have a couple of distinguished mystery gents. This is distinguished mystery gent No. 1.

Update: This is Richard Tucker.

Feb. 19, 2020, Mystery Photo

This is distinguished mystery gent No. 2.

Update: This is Charles Richman, the only member of the Broadway cast to appear in the film.

Feb. 19, 2020, Mystery Photo
We also have a pair of somewhat undistinguished mystery guests.

Update: These two mystery guests play reporters interviewing Marion Forsythe. Mystery guest No. 1 is “Cohen of the News” and mystery guest No. 2 is “Hendricks from the Journal.” They are accompanied by two more actors with roles as reporters and virtually no lines.  Many people guessed that No. 2 is Walter Brennan. But he’s much shorter than Brennan believe me he sounds nothing like Walter Brennan. Still, Walter Brennan is listed in IMDB, so I gave half-credit. Grandpa McCoy would have been my guess if I hadn’t heard him speak.

Mystery reporter No. 1 remains unidentified. Mystery reporter No. 2 is Phil Tead.

Feb. 22, 2020, Mystery Photo

Here’s another shot of the reporters. Walter Brennan was 6 feet tall. That eliminates Hendricks of the Journal (on the right). But the man on the left, who might be 6 feet tall, looks nothing like Walter Brennan.

Brain Trust roll call: Sylvia E. (mystery studio).

Feb. 20, 2020, Mystery Photo

Feb. 20, 2020, Mystery Photo
For “Aha Thursday,” we have a mystery guest with a high “Aha” quotient. The mystery leading lady has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness. She will appear Friday.

Update: Here’s the uncropped image of Donald Meek and Ann Harding.

Feb. 20, 2020, Mystery Photo

Our other “Aha Thursday” gent is really more of a Friday. But Friday is loaded up with unmysterious people.

Update: This is Edward Arnold.

Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Wednesday’s distinguished mystery gent No. 1), Michael Ryerson (Wednesday’s distinguished mystery gent No. 1, half-credit on Wednesday’s mysterious reporter No. 2), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery women, Wednesday’s distinguished mystery gentlemen and mysterious reporter No. 2), Diane Ely (half-credit on Wednesday’s mysterious reporter No. 2), Sylvia E. (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery woman No. 2, Wednesday’s distinguished mystery gents and mysterious reporter No. 2) and Sheila (mystery movie, Wednesday’s distinguished mystery gent No. 1 and half-credit for Wednesday’s mystery reporter No. 2).

Feb. 21, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Friday, we have this not terribly mysterious couple.

Update: The perfect comedy pair: Edward Everett Horton and Una Merkel.

Feb. 21, 2020, Mystery Photo

And no, he does not approve of such goings-on. Oh my no.

Update: Edward Everett Horton.

Feb. 21, 2020, Mystery Photo

And here’s our unmysterious leading man. He strongly disapproves of our mysterious leading lady and her goings-on. For now, anyway.

Update: Robert Montgomery and Ann Harding as Back of the Head Woman.

Feb. 21, 2020, Mystery Photo

And here’s our mysterious leading lady.

Update: Robert Montgomery as Back of the Head Guy, with Greta Meyer and Ann Harding in disguise.

Feb. 21, 2020, Mystery Photo

And here’s a better shot of her.

Update: This is Ann Harding.

Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery secretary No. 2, Wednesday’s mystery distinguished gent No. 2, Wednesday’s mystery reporter No. 2, Thursday’s mystery gents and half-credit for Wednesday’s mystery reporter), Michael Ryerson (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery gents), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery gents), Benito (Thursday’s mystery pianist, half-credit on Wednesday’s mystery reporter), Gary (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery pianist), Sylvia E. (Thursday’s mystery gents and mysterious cropped-out leading lady), Thom and Megan (Thursday’s mystery pianist) and L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast).

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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46 Responses to Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

  1. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Noel Francis.


  2. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Muriel Hutchison.


  3. Anne Papineau says:

    Esther Ralston? Too big a star for Monday, maybe.


  4. Mary Mallory says:

    Dorothy Dell.


  5. Mystery woman number one for Tuesday looks a bit like Wendy Barrie.


  6. And Tuesday’s mystery woman number two looks a bit like Patsy Kelly. But, of course, if this is Patsy then number one cannot be Wendy Barrie as they never worked together. And vice versa.


  7. David Inman says:

    Anita Louise on Monday?


  8. Sylvia E. says:

    By any chance is the mystery movie an MGM picture?


  9. Sylvia E. says:

    Just for grins. I’m going to guess that Tuesday’s woman#2 is (maybe) a young Alice Pearce.


  10. Mary Mallory says:

    Richard Tucker is our first guest today.


  11. I spy Walter Brennan.


  12. Earl Boebert says:

    Sheldon Leonard on Wed????


  13. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Tuesday: Elizabeth Forrester; Gertrude Sutton; Richard Tucker
    Wednesday: Charles Richman; Phil Tead (2)


  14. Diane Ely says:

    On Wednesday – of the two undistinguished mystery guests – Walter Brennan seated on the right?


  15. Sylvia E. says:

    Biography of a Bachelor Girl 1935
    Still working on the ladies of Monday and Tuesday (never mind about my earlier guess)

    Wednesday’s ‘seated reporter’ is Walter Brennan. Working on his friend.

    Will guess as you go thru the week.


  16. Sylvia E. says:

    Tuesday’s ‘Miss Sutton’ (woman #2) is Gertrude Sutton. Still working on woman #1 and on Monday’s woman.

    Weds. – Richard Tucker is man #1, Charles Richman is man #2
    Correction on an oops on Weds.’s seated guy – I don’t think he’s Walter Brennan. I think he’s Phil Tead.


  17. Oh and Wednesday mystery gent no. 1 is Richard Tucker who once loaned money to Laurel and Hardy!


  18. I think we may have Saturday’s Millions (1933)


  19. Sheila says:

    Richard Tucker for Wednesday.


  20. Sheila says:

    Walter Brennan for Wednesday, ‘Biography of a Bachelor Girl’.


  21. Mary Mallory says:

    BIOGRAPHY OF A BACHELOR GIRL. Gertrude Sutton on Tuesday with two unidentified women as secretaries at the magazine, Charles Richman, Phil Tead and Walter Brennan Wednesday, and Donald Meek and Edward ARnold today.


  22. Well, for Thursday we have Edward Arnold (one of the great screen laughs) and Donald Meek in stills from Biography of a Bachelor Girl (1935). Aha!


  23. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Donald Meek; Edward Arnold.


  24. B.J. Merholz says:

    Could this be Paul Madvig in the grievously under-appreciated first film version of The Glass Key?


  25. Benito says:

    Edward Arnold today. Yesterday looked like Walter Brennan and Sly Stallone!? Kidding


  26. Benito says:

    Guessing its COME AND GET IT 1936, with Edward Arnold, The Walrus Of Love in his day.


  27. Gary . says:

    Thursday: Edward Arnold.


  28. Gary . says:

    How about Diary of a Bachelor Girl?


  29. Sylvia E. says:

    Thursday – Guy #1 is Donald Meek (with O.S. Ann Harding)
    Guy #2 is Edward Arnold

    Still searching on ‘seated guy’ in Wednesday’s image #3. I give up on Monday’s woman and Tuesday’s woman #1. Maybe one of them is Elizabeth Forrester, but the images I’ve seen of Ms. Forrester do not look like either of these women. Hopefully all will be revealed in your Saturday breakdown.


  30. Thom and Megan says:

    Today we have Edward Arnold in The Glass Key.


  31. LC says:

    Biography of a Bachelor Girl (1935) w/Robert Montgomery, Ann Harding, Edward Arnold, Una Merkel, Gladden James, Gertrude Sutton…


  32. Mary Mallory says:

    Edward Everett Horton, Una Merkel, Robert Montgomery, and the bland Ann Harding. I don’t understand how she became popular, if even for a short time.


  33. Well Friday brings us Edward Everett Horton talking with Una Merkel, and another glossy of Horton (tell the story of his house and the widening of the Ventura Freeway), and then Robert Montgomery speaking to Ann Harding, another of Ann and yet another of her (quite pretty). And the studio was, of course, MGM.


  34. Sylvia E. says:

    Friday – Edward Everett Horton, Una Merkel
    Robert Montgomery and Ann Harding
    Image #4 includes Greta Meyer in the bg along with Montgomery and Harding


  35. Benito says:

    Harding and Montgomery previously worked well together in WHEN LADIES MEET 1933. They gang up to pry Myrna Loy away from serial cheater Frank Morgan.


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