This week’s mystery movie was the 1932 Columbia picture “Forbidden,” with Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou, Ralph Bellamy, Dorothy Peterson, Thomas Jefferson, Myrna Fresholt, Charlotte V. Henry and Oliver Eckhardt.
Story by Frank Capra, adaptation and dialogue by Jo Swerling, edited by Maurice Wright, photography by Joseph Walker.
Directed by Frank Capra.
“Forbidden” is available on DVD from TCM in “Frank Capra: The Early Collection.”
I picked “Forbidden” because it seemed to combine a couple of requests: One was for a Pre-Code and another was for a subject that I thought would be in “Forbidden” but wasn’t. So we’ll get to that in the coming weeks.
In “Forbidden,” Barbara Stanwyck carries the torch for the married, stuffy Adolphe Menjou over gruff newshound and man of the people Ralph Bellamy and you have to wonder what she saw in either one of them.
Frumpy, plain small-town librarian Lulu (Stanwyck) blows her life savings on a cruise to Havana and, looking gorgeous, doesn’t want to dine alone and so in a “meet cute,” hooks up with rich, married cad Bob (Menjou). Along comes a baby girl and a sharp newspaper guy Holland (Bellamy), who asks too many questions. I guess the message is that plain, small-town librarians should stay in their lane. Or something. The minor characters – especially the city room habitues – are more interesting than the leads.
Frank Capra’s massive autobiography, “The Name Above the Title,” spends three paragraphs on “Forbidden,” calling it “two hours of soggy, 99.44% pure soap opera.”
Harrison’s Reports (Jan. 16, 1932) said:
Although this is artistically performed and the sex situations are handled in a delicate manner, it turns out only fair entertainment. The trouble is that the hero does not arouse much sympathy. He wins the love of the heroine, even living with her, without first telling her that he is a married man. All throughout the story he wants to do the right thing, but he is so weak that he permits himself to be persuaded by the heroine, who does not want him to ruin his career because of her.
Film Daily (Jan. 17, 1932) said:
Absorbing love drama with newspaper and political background ending on a tragic note.
Although it is a matter of doubt as to how many patrons will go home satisfied after witnessing the tragic conclusion of this drama, it carries a dramatic effectiveness and suspense. Women will like it best.
Writing in the New York Times (Jan. 11, 1932), Mordaunt Hall did not approve of such goings-on:
With its intermittent bickering and embracing between the principal characters and its peculiar conception of human psychology, “Forbidden,” the present pictorial feature at the Rialto, is a cumbersome effort at story-telling. Although there is little, if anything, to inspire them, Barbara Stanwyck and Adolphe Menjou do all that is possible with their roles.
This lengthy effusion was both written and directed by Frank Capra. It happens invariably when a director tackles his own brainchild that the result is disappointing, except, of course, in the case of Chaplin. This particular narrative is like an offspring of “The Sin of Madelon Claudet” and “The Front Page.”
For a change, I’ll start the week with our mystery leading man and mystery leading lady. It’s not my fault they are wearing masks. You’ll can blame the mystery director. You will see them without their masks on Friday.
Update: This is Adolphe Menjou and Barbara Stanwyck.
For Tuesday, we have this mysterious yawning gentleman…
Update: This is Thomas Jefferson in his last film.
And we also have this fellow.
Update: This is Spec O’Donnell.
Brain Trust roll call: David Inman (mystery movie and mystery leading man and leading lady) and Mary Mallory (mystery movie, mystery leading man and mystery leading lady).
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have mystery girl who is central to the plot.
Update: This is Myrna Fresholt.
We also have this mystery newspaper columnist who is playing solitaire.
Update: This is Harry Holman, seen previously in “Silver Dollar” (1932) and “State Fair” (1933).
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Tuesday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Tuesday’s mystery copy boy), Dan Nather (mystery movie, mystery leads and Tuesday’s mystery copy boy) and Sheila (Tuesday’s mystery copy boy).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mystery gent.
Update: I had three votes for Edmund Mortimer and one for Oliver Eckhardt, but a clip from “It Happened One Night” from Mary Mallory confirms that this is Eckhardt.
We also have these two mystery women.
Update: This is Charlotte Henry and Dorothy Peterson.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Wednesday’s mystery girl and mysterious advice to the lovelorn columnist), Sheila (Wednesday’s mysterious advice to the lovelorn columnist), Mike Hawks (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery leads and Wednesday’s mystery child and mysterious advice to the lovelorn columnist) and Roget-L.A. (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery girl and mystery advice to the lovelorn columnist).
For Friday, here’s our leading lady. You might not recognize her here because they have tried to make her look like a frumpy librarian.
Update: This is Barbara Stanwyck.
And then along comes this mystery gent….
Update: This is Stanwyck and Adolphe Menjou.
And along comes this mystery gent. And he’s the type who asks questions.
Update: This is Stanwyck and Ralph Bellamy.
Some of the questions are a bit awkward, shall we say. A gun may be involved, and it does not end well.
Update: Stanwyck and Menjou again.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery women), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery leads, Tuesday’s mystery guests, Wednesday’s mystery guests and Thursday’s mystery women), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery woman No. 1), Sheila (Thursday’s mystery woman No. 2), and Dan Nather (Tuesday’s mystery yawner, Wednesday’s mystery guests), Thursday’s mystery women).
Note: The identity of Thursday’s mystery gent is a bit elusive. Dan and Howard identified him one fellow, but I’m not sure that’s right. Mary identified him as another actor in the film, but there are hardly any photos of him for comparison, so I’m not sure that’s right either. More digging is necessary.