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Smart Woman

(1931 b 68')

En: 5 Ed: 5)

Adapted from a play by Myron C. Fagan and directed by Gregory La Cava, an intelligent woman returns from a trip and learns her husband has fallen in love and wants a divorce; but her open attitude and her friend from the trip helps her husband realize that this new woman is a fortune hunter and that his wife is really the one he loves.

            Mrs. Nancy Gibson (Mary Astor) is sitting on a deck chair on an ocean liner. Guy Harrington (John Halliday) sits down next to her and tells her that they are making up time. She is happy they will not be late. He asks why she is happy to be coming home. She loves her house and her husband. He is surprised that an American loves her husband. He would like to meet her husband, and she expects him on the dock tomorrow.

            The next day they dock in New York City. A crowd is waiting, and people wave to each other. Nancy looks for her husband, and Guy says she is excited like a school-girl. She says he is prominent and thanks him for being nice. They say goodbye, and he hopes to see her again.

            On the dock Nancy is looking around and sees Bill Ross (Edward Everett Horton) who struggles in the crowd to get to her. She asks about her husband Don, and Bill says he is in Philadelphia.

            Bill drives Nancy home and toots the horn. Mrs. Sally Ross (Ruth Weston) comes running out and welcomes them home. Nancy greets the butler Brooks (Alfred Cross) and the maids Helen and Katie. She appreciates the flowers and the furniture and leaves the room. Sally asks Bill about Philadelphia and why he did not tell her. Bill says he will. He drinks from a bottle and says he needs his iron. Sally reads the label and finds that it is 40% alcohol. Sally shows Bill that Nancy’s last three letters to Don are unopened. Nancy comes back in the room, and Bill tells her that Don has fallen for a girl. Nancy says she got loving cables every week, but Bill says he sent them for Don. He hoped Don would snap out of it. Nancy asks if it is serious, and Sally says she thinks it is. She shows Nancy her last three letters to him. Nancy asks what she is like, and Bill says she is a blonde who hunts with her mother. Bill says Don is hooked, and it is Nancy’s fault. Bill says a wife should stick to her husband, but she left him for a while. Bill says her husband escaped his cage and is now wild. Bill says Don wants to marry her, and Sally says Don wants a divorce. Nancy says she won’t give him a divorce. Nancy says she does not want him and starts to cry. Bill advises her to play Peggy’s game; she makes him reach for her love while Nancy showers him with love. Brooks announces that Mr. Gibson has arrived in his car. Nancy asks Sally and Bill to stay with her. Don Gibson (Robert Ames) comes in the front door and says hello to Nancy. He says he is glad she is back. He expected she would be alone and wants to talk with her. Nancy says she will talk to him alone, and Bill and Sally go out.

            Nancy says they are making a fuss over nothing. Don asks if they told her anything. She knows he met someone and wants a divorce. She laughs and tells him not to be Victorian. She says modern women do not cry but hope to have better luck with another man. She asks what she is like and asks if he intends to marry her. He says he would like to marry her if she will let him. She says she does not mind at all, and he says she is taking it very well. She says he is like a boy stealing jam.

            Mrs. Windleweaver (Lillian Harmer) comes in and shakes hands with Nancy, offering her deepest sympathy. Nancy asks why, and Mrs. Windleweaver asks if she has heard about that woman and her mother. Nancy says they are dear friends of hers and that she asked them to be nice to Don while she was gone. Mrs. Windleweaver asks if they will be spending the weekend with them. Nancy likes the idea and says they will. Nancy tells Mrs. Windleweaver she should be ashamed of herself, and she shows her out.

            Don asks Nancy why he told her they were coming there, and Nancy says she does not want the neighbors gossiping about his affair. He says they will talk twice as much when they find out it is not true. She asks Don what they should do. She says the Prestons could come, and then they would not have anything to talk about. He wonders if they will want to come. She asks Don to ask them to come, and then she will go to Reno for a divorce. He agrees and calls Peggy. He tells Nancy that Peggy always does what he wants. He tells Peggy that his wife wants to talk to her, and he hands the phone to Nancy. She invites Peggy and her mother to spend the weekend with them and says it is necessary to get out of an awkward situation. She would love to have them. She and Don have a perfect understanding, and they would like to avoid a scandal. She thanks Peggy.

            Nancy alone reads her letters to Don expressing her love and desire to come home to him.

            A car arrives, and Don gets out with Peggy Preston (Noel Francis) and her mother Mrs. Preston (Gladys Gale).  Peggy likes the beautiful house. Sally and Bill are hiding behind a bush. Don and the Prestons go inside. Peggy says Don is on the spot and kisses him. Don looks around for Nancy who retreats upstairs. Sally and Bill spy on the Prestons, and then she leads him in. Peggy tells her mother she will throw out things and get something modern. She dislikes the portrait over the fireplace. Sally introduces herself as Don’s sister and says the man in the portrait is her great-grandfather. Bill introduces himself and says he can run from and toward women. Don comes back and says Nancy is upstairs. Nancy comes in from the garden, and Bill takes the pruning shears from her. Nancy shakes their hands and says Don’s taste has improved. Peggy thanks Nancy for being modern, and Nancy agrees husbands should be free. Nancy toys with a letter opener, and Bill takes it from her. Nancy jokes about his thinking she might stab Peggy. Don puts his arm around Peggy, and Sally slams a book down and goes out. Nancy says Sally has been disappointed in love, but Bill denies that. Don says Bill is a great kidder. Brooks wheels in tea, and Don has Peggy pour. Bill hands some to Mrs. Preston, but he drinks from his bottle. Nancy asks Don if he is comfortable and says he won’t be when she and Peggy discuss him. Nancy tells Peggy she is giving Don to him. Peggy says she loves her present and asks about the divorce. Nancy agrees. Bill asks Mrs. Preston if she believes in marriage. Don tells Nancy she has been wonderful, and Peggy agrees. Nancy says she may end up liking Peggy even if she does not like her husband. Nancy asks Don if he told Peggy why she gave him up so easily. Nancy implies there is someone else, and Peggy asks if he is in Paris. Nancy says she met someone on the boat. Don is surprised, and she says she wrote to him about it in her last three letters. Don asks if she wants to marry him, but Nancy says no, though she likes his company. Bill says he knows him, but Nancy says he does not. Brooks brings in a box of roses and hands them to Nancy. She reads the card which says, “To the Lady who loves her husband. Harrington.” She tears the card and tells Peggy to go along with her as she goes to put them in water. As they leave the room, Nancy drops the card. Don and Bill rush to pick it up and read it, seeing only “To the Lady who loves Harri.” Bill laughs at Don, and Mrs. Preston says they have fun. Bill praises Peggy, and Mrs. Preston says she was Miss Alabama in 1927. Bill asks when she was born. Bill discusses astrology and reads the hand of Mrs. Preston. She asks to know more, and he says she and he have similar children.

            In the garden Nancy tells Peggy that her father gave her the house. They join the others on the porch. Bill refers to Nancy’s experience in Paris as mythical. A car arrives, and Guy gets out and is welcomed by Nancy. She tells him to call her Nancy and takes his arm. She introduces Guy to the others. She leads Guy off to the room she has for him. Sally says he is an important man and looks for the newspaper article about him.

            Inside Guy asks Nancy to explain, and she says she will later when she notices that Don is listening. She talks to Guy about Venice and sings an Italian song. She whispers to Guy that someone is behind her. Guy plays along and talks about the moon in her eyes, kissing her hand. He says goodbye for a little while and blows her a kiss as he ascends the stairs. Don asks to speak to Nancy and asks how long she has known Harrington. He says she should not have invited him. She says he must have read her last letters. She figured he wanted to meet him just as she wanted to meet Peggy. Don says he will leave with Peggy, but Nancy says he can’t go. He says he is sorry he saw her again and goes out.

            Nancy goes upstairs and looks out the window, seeing Don and Peggy walking in the garden. Don tells Peggy they are leaving, and she obeys. Don kisses her. Guy and Nancy are watching, and Guy says he understands now. He asks Nancy if she still loves her husband, and she admits she does. She asks Guy to help her. Guy does not want to lose his one chance at happiness. He says it is her private affair, and she goes into another room.

            On the porch Sally shows Bill and Mrs. Preston a photo of Guy in the newspaper, and they show it to Peggy. Mrs. Preston says she will take a nap, and Sally shows her to her room. Bill asks Peggy to sit next to him, and Peggy says Nancy is a lucky girl. Peggy says she and her mother were going to England, but she met Don. Bill says Don is in a business jam, and Peggy does not know about it. Bill implies that Don does not have money. Guy joins them, and Peggy invites him to see the garden. Guy and Peggy walk off as Sally joins Bill.

            Peggy admires Guy’s car his chauffeur is polishing. Guy shows her two bicycles and dares her to ride with him. He helps her get on a bicycle, and he follows her. They ride side by side, and he asks if she has known the Gibsons long. Peggy says no. Guy says he met her on the boat. They both indicate they are single.

            Later Peggy is combing her hair while she talks to her mother about Guy. Peggy tells her mother she is not well enough to go to dinner and persuades her to have a spell. Peggy wants to spend more time with Guy.

            Sally is throwing darts at a target as Guy plays piano. Peggy, Nancy, Bill, and Don are playing bridge. Peggy asks Don what the score is. Sally asks Guy what he is playing. Don bids four spades, and Peggy tells him he neglected their score and bid too much. Don defends his skill, and Nancy backs him up. Don becomes perturbed, and Nancy says Peggy is worried about her mother. Nancy suggests that Peggy go up and see her mother while Sally takes her place.

            Peggy goes outside and finds Guy smoking.

            The next day Don asks his servant if he put new sparkplugs in his car. Guy and Peggy return from riding horses, and Guy helps her down. Don comes over, and Peggy calls him lazy. Guy says he will see them at breakfast and walks off. Don tells Peggy that they are leaving right after supper; but she does not like it. He says they are leaving anyway.

            Bill asks Sally when they will eat. Bill says he devastated Peggy.  Don sits down and says they are leaving after supper. Bill laughs at Don, and Sally mockingly comforts him. Don gets angry and stalks off.

            Nancy calls Don into the dining room and shows him how nice things look. Don says he is annoyed that Bill and Sally have been making trouble between Peggy and him. He says Nancy has been swell and is the only one who has the right to be upset. She asks if she was injured. Don says people cannot help being in love. She hopes she and Don will be friends, and they agree. She says they had wonderful times, and he agrees. They recall his last birthday party and laugh. She says he always forgot her birthday, but he explains how he said nothing and then gave her flowers to fool her. She hoped they were from him. He tells her to round up her guests.

            They go outside looking for them. They observe Guy and Peggy walking arm-in-arm. Guy says they were admiring the moonlight on the lake. Nancy says they were watching them. Guy wonders if there will be a supper. He and Peggy walk off. Don apologizes to Nancy and says Peggy has taken Harrington away from her. Don says she will not spoil Nancy’s life too.

            Inside Peggy says she will pack her things. Guy tells Brooks to call a taxi for Peggy and her mother. Peggy asks if they can go in Guy’s car; but he says she is taking this adventure to seriously because he plans not to see her again ever. He walks away, and Peggy is upset and goes upstairs. Don tells Guy he wants to talk with him, and he will not let him leave there with Peggy. Don says Nancy is the finest woman and refers to Peggy as a vampire. Guy is playing the piano and asks Don what he wants him to do. Don says Nancy cares for Guy, and he cannot let her down. Don wants Guy to get rid of Peggy and be fair to Nancy. Guy asks if Don wants him to devote himself to his wife. Don says yes. Don says Guy may regret it. Guy sees Peggy return and plays the piano very loud. Guy says Don may or may not be right. Nancy listens from behind a curtain. Guy asks Don if he is pretending to be noble. Guy asks Don if he is trying to shift Nancy over to him so that he can go away with Peggy. Don says he does not understand. Don says when one loves someone one wants them to be happy no matter what it costs. Guy says he is beginning to like Don. Guy pours drinks for them and asks if he and Nancy will get along. Don says she is easy to get along with, but she likes surprises. He advises Guy to treat her birthday the way he has. He says he pretends to like things she gives him and gives Guy other advice. Don says he should make like easier for her. Don suggests he take her on a trip, and Guy says she is fond of Venice. Guy asks Don if he is in love with Nancy. Don says he loves her more than anything. Guy understands and asks if Nancy loves him. Don says she is in the garden, and he asks Guy to tell her that he has gone to town. They shake hands, and Don sees Nancy. She asks Don if he is leaving. He shakes her hand and hopes she is happy. She says she is happy and takes Guy’s hand. Don walks to the door, and Nancy asks him to go upstairs and get her a handkerchief. He complies, and she says they are in a drawer on the right.

            Don looks in the drawer and finds the letters she wrote him.

            Nancy tells Guy he said he would not help her. He says she has a nice husband, and she says that is why she fought hard not to lose him. Guy says he will never see her again, but she will never succeed in losing him. She calls him a dear and kisses him before running upstairs.

            Don is reading Nancy’s letter to him, and she comes in.

            Brooks tells Guy the car is ready, and Guy walks out.

            This romantic comedy explores how a confident woman can control her emotions and win back her husband from an affair by being accepting and showing that she could do the same thing to him.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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