Movie Mirrors Index

The Common Law

(1931 b 74')

En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on a novel by Robert W. Chambers, a wealthy young artist falls in love with his model in Paris but is repelled by her previous affair.

Valerie West (Constance Bennett) has her trunks packed and tells Nick Cardemon (Lew Cody) she is going. John Neville (Joel McCrea) tells his sister Claire (Hedda Hopper) he will not leave Paris. Valerie arrives and wants to model. John paints nudes and asks her to undress. He says she is perfect and has her pose naked. Valerie sees Nick at a street table and talks with him and a woman, who advises her not to tell John about Nick. John tells Valerie that he has changed, and she says she is happy. Nine people visit John. Querido (Paul Ellis) has a studio, but John does not like him. Sam (Robert Williams) advises John to take women apart. Valerie declines to pose for Querido, and John threatens him. When the others leave, John kisses Valerie, who says she liked it. Sam brings John a letter from his sister and urges him to go home. John says he hopes to marry. Sam mentions Nick as Valerie approaches. John asks her about Nick, and she says the rumors are true. John changes his mind about making her his wife, and she calls him a hypocrite.

At a formal party Sam and John drink with the men. Among a large crowd John sees Valerie. As he is going, she catches him and gets in his cab. He loans her his coat. At his hotel she goes in with him. John says he is not happy, and she says she did not see Nick. In the morning they have breakfast. John says he wants to marry her, but she is reluctant unless it will last.

A doctor examines the senior John Neville (Walter Walker). Claire wants him to intervene with her brother John, but the father declines. Claire sends a cablegram to John that their father is very ill. John calls Valerie and tells her to lie about what ship she came over on. Claire has invited Nick and Stephanie (Marion Shilling) on the yacht, and John complains. Stephanie is glad to see John again. The senior Neville tells Valerie that his son has become more confident, and she admits to him that she came over on the same boat. Claire has arranged the table so that Valerie sits next to Nick, and John sits by Stephanie. Valerie wants to see John alone, but he feels like a fool and goes with Stephanie. Nick tells Valerie that he loves her, but she says goodnight. Drunk Nick goes to Valerie's room. She makes him leave by pushing him out, and he trips. John takes Nick to his room and then goes to Valerie. She wants to go ashore, and he takes her in a motor boat so that they can wed.

This drama shows the influence of artists in Paris on morals in conflict with the upper class of America, where legal marriage provides more protection than common law.

Copyright © 2005 by Sanderson Beck

Movie Mirrors Index

BECK index