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.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman.
Update: This is Gladys Gale.
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have a mysterious butler.
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.
We also have this mysterious gent.
Update: Here’s a better screen cap of our mysterious fellow.
Update: This is Edward Everett Horton.
For Friday, we have this mystery woman.
Update: This is Noel Francis.
And finally, our mystery leads.
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).
John Gielgud, before he was a Big Sur.
An excellent guess, but alas…
An excellent guess. But alas…
Frances Starr in THE STAR WITNESS.
An excellent guess, but alas…
Jack Lemmon AFTER the honeymoon with Joe E. Brown
Certainly looks like Margaret Dumont. And, as per usual, she appears mystified by whatever has just been said.
Thursday’s gent on the couch is Edward Everett Horton, which narrows it down to about 500 films.
SMART WOMAN. Robert Ames Monday, Gladys GaleTuesday, Alfred Cross and Ruth Weston yesterday, and John Halliday and Edward Everett Horton today.
Edward Everett Horton
Thurs man on floral settee is Edward Everett Horton
SMART WOMAN (1931)
Tuesday: Gladys Gale
Wednesday: Alfred Cross, Ruth Weston
Thursday: John Halliday; Edward Everett Horton
Is #1 photo of piano man on Thurs. George Meeker?
On Thursday, Edward Everett Horton?
The Tuesday Mystery Woman seems shocked by the Wednesday Butler’s unbuttoned fly.And Thursday’s Edward Everett Horton is definitely displeased with the display.
Tuesday’s Mystery Woman seems shocked by Wednesday’s Butler’s unbuttoned fly. And Thursday’s Edward Everett Horton is definitely displeased b y the display.
How about Edward Everett Horton in Smart Woman.
Thursday #2 is Edward Everett Horton I think.
John Halliday and Edward Everett Horton in SMART WOMAN.
John Halliday and Edward Everett Horton in ‘Smart Woman’?
John Halliday and Edward Everett Horton today, making this Gregory LaCava’s “Smart Woman,” with Mary Astor in the title role.
Smart Woman 1931
Lillian Harmer, Alfred Cross, Ruth Weston, Harold Miller, EEH, Noel Francis, Mary Astor, Robert Ames
I spy John Halliday, Edward Everett Horton and Mary Astor
Noel Francis, Mary Astor, and Robert Ames.
“Smart Woman” 1931
Monday – ???
Tuesday – Gladys Gale
Wednesday – Alfred Cross and Ruth Weston, I think
Thursday – Robert Ames, I think and Edward Everett Horton
Friday – Noel Francis, I think
Mary Astor and John Halliday, I think
Noel Francis; Mary Astor, Robert Ames.
Noel Francis, Mary Astor and Robert Ames.
Friday #2 Mary Astor and Robert Ames
Our film is Smart Woman (1931)
Fri #1 is Noel Francis
Thurs piano man is John Halliday
Butler on Wed is Alfred Cross
Wed, #2 photo is Ruth Weston
Tues #1 is probably Lillian Harmer, the next door neighbor.
No idea who the car guy on Monday is. There is John Halliday’s chauffeur – but he’s not listed on AFI, IMDB nor on TCM web site for this film.