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The Guardsman

(1931 b 82')

En: 7 Ed: 6

The couple Lunt and Fontanne were both nominated for Academy awards in this adaptation of Ferenc Molnar's comedy they also played on Broadway.

In Vienna an actor (Alfred Lunt) and actress (Lynn Fontanne) have been married for six months and quarrel competitively. Having been only one of her seven lovers before she married, the actor is afraid she will find an eighth lover. She has been getting roses and refuses to show him the card. He is very jealous and tells his critic friend (Roland Young) that he has been sending them himself. She tosses a note to a guardsman in the street, and the critic follows him to discover it is the jealous actor playing a role to test her. The note says she has no objections to meeting him; he sends her a note asking her to signal him at five, and he will be there at 5:30. Then the actor tells his wife that he has to go out of town overnight to play Hamlet, waiting to see her give the signal.

The wife in a sexy dress receives the bearded guardsman who has a deep voice. They discuss her husband; then both say they are lonely. He kisses her, and she walks out. He is glad because she is true; but then she suggests they meet at the opera. The husband returns, saying he missed his train. Questioned by her jealous husband, she says no one called; but he asks about the soldier. He loves his wife but clearly doesn't trust her. She takes him to the train and then goes to the opera. The guardsman joins her in a private room, and the critic goes in to see what is happening. She criticizes the guardsman, but alone with him she kisses him passionately, then saying she never wants to see him again. The critic tells his friend to follow her, or he'll never know. At her door she tells the guardsman she only wants to be friends and says good-bye. He tells the critic how happy he is until she tosses her key out the window.

The next morning on the phone the guardsman tells her he is coming over at five when her husband is due back. The husband returns; as they talk, he makes himself up in the other room as the guardsman. Then he approaches her with a knife playing Othello. She laughs and says she knew it was him as soon as she met the guardsman. They begin arguing, but a bill collector arrives and easily recognizes him too. She says he was given away by his kiss, his eyes, and the other thing.

This story plays with the dilemma creative actors have in keeping reality as exciting as their dramatic fantasies. The actor considers this his greatest role, and we never really know whether she was taken in and tempted or not. Clearly she thrives on such romantic excitement, and he, knowing that, is naturally jealous. He may be endangered by his own conceit, because he assumes if he cannot tempt her, no one else can.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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