This week’s mystery movie was the 1931 RKO picture Smart Woman, with Mary Astor, Robert Ames, John Halliday, Edward Everett Horton, Noel Francis, Ruth Weston, Gladys Gale, Alfred Cross and Lillian Harmer.
Produced by William LeBaron.
Associate producer Bertram Millhauser. Scenery and costumes by Max Ree.
Photographed by Nick Musuraca. Adaptation and dialogue by Salisbury Field. Recording by Clem Portman. Edited by Ann McKnight.
More on the history of Smart Woman is available from the AFI catalog.
Smart Woman is available on DVD from TCM in a Warner Archive issue (RIP).
I picked Smart Woman by going through the trades for 1931, letting Mary Astor out of Mystery Movie Jail for 2022. It’s a rather mechanical plot, adapted from a play (Nancy’s Private Affair, with 136 Broadway performances in 1930) and remains rather stagey. It’s the story of a wife (Mary Astor) who returns to the U.S. and uses a somewhat novel ploy (feigned interest in John Halliday) to regain the interest of her husband (Robert Ames) who has been dallying with another woman (Noel Francis) while his wife was away. Toss in witty repartee from Edward Everett Horton and you have what was once a slick, smart Broadway comedy that’s as stale as last week’s flute of Champagne.
Given its Broadway origins, I would expect Smart Woman to get a fairly good review from The New York Times. It predates Bosley Crowther, so I’m guessing Mordaunt Hall.
Indeed, Mordaunt Hall weighs in (Oct. 12, 1931):
A neat diversion wherein truth frequently bows to comedy is now at the Roxy. It masquerades as Smart Woman, but on the stage it was known as Nancy’s Private Affair. Nancy may seem smart enough to outwit her lout of a husband, but one is inclined to think that she would have been a good deal smarter if she had left him to his blond and become Sir Guy Harrington’s wife.
For Monday, we have a mysterious mechanic.
Update: Alas, our mysterious mechanic remains unidentified for now. I always hope the Brain Trust can identify some of these folks.
Update: This is Gladys Gale.
Update: This is Alfred Cross.
And we have a mystery woman. She does not approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Ruth Weston.
For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mysterious pianist.
Update: This is John Halliday.
Update: Here’s a better screen cap of our mysterious fellow.
Update: This is Edward Everett Horton.
Update: This is Noel Francis.
Update: This is Mary Astor (freed from Mystery Movie Jail) and Robert Ames. Ames was found dead in a New York hotel room a little more than a month after Smart Woman was released.
Brain Trust roll call: Bruce (Thursday’s mystery gent No. 2), Mary Mallory (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Tucson Barbara (Thursday’s mystery guest No. 2), Beach Gal (Thursday’s mystery guest No. 2), Howard Mandelbaum, (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Anne Papineau (Thursday’s mystery gent No. 2), B.J. Merholz (Thursday’s mystery gent No. 2), Gary (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery gent No. 2), Sylvia E. (Thursday’s mystery gent No. 2), Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery gentlemen), Sheila (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery gents), David Inman (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery guests, mystery director and mystery leading lady) and Alexa (mystery movie).