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Evelyn Prentice

Evelyn Prentice(1934)

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teaser Evelyn Prentice (1934)

Evelyn Prentice (1934) is the third of fourteen films WilliamPowell and Myrna Loy made together. MGM rushed the film into production and intotheaters to capitalize on the success of their second pairing in The ThinMan (1934), but the two films couldn't be more different. EvelynPrentice is a melodrama, so Powell and Loy are not funny. Loy is not the perfect wife, and Powell is not the perfect husband. He plays a lawyer witha roving eye. When his wife finds out about his latest affair, she has a retaliatoryaffair of her own, which ends in blackmail, murder, a dramatic courtroom confession,and a surprise twist.

Loy had been playing oriental vamps and other women since the silent era, and hadhoped that when she signed a contract with MGM in 1931, her fortunes would improve.Her first pairing with Powell, in Manhattan Melodrama (1934),was the beginning of the turnaround, and also the beginning of her typecasting asthe Perfect Wife. In that film, she first loves bad guy Clark Gable, but marrieshis best friend, good guy Powell, who ends up becoming the governor. Loy recalledthat the chemistry between her and Powell was instant, and instinctive. "Hewas so naturally witty and outrageous that I stayed somewhat detached, always a little incredulous. From that very first scene, a curious thing passed between us, a feeling of rhythm, complete understanding, and instinct for how one could bring out the best in the other." Their chemistry really exploded in TheThin Man, and from then on, Powell and Loy were a great screen team.

MGM spared no expense in the production of Evelyn Prentice, givingthe film its typical MGM high-gloss look. There was a strong supporting cast, withdependable veterans like Una Merkel, Jessie Ralph, and Edward Brophy joined by anewcomer, Rosalind Russell, in her film debut. Russell played a woman with whomPowell has an affair. Russell became extremely fond of Powell, and grateful to him for his helpfulness and kindness. In her memoirs, Russell recalls being castopposite Powell in Rendezvous (1935). She told Powell she knewthat he'd rather have Loy in the part, and he replied, "I love Myrna, but Ithink this is good for you, and I'm glad we're doing it together."

Russell had no scenes with Loy in Evelyn Prentice, but the twoalso became good friends. Since they were the same type, MGM would use Russellas a threat to Loy when Loy was being uncooperative, but it did not affect theirfriendship. The two women were neighbors, and once at a party, Russell teased Loyabout getting all her rejected scripts. "You 'd wait until dark, shove 'em out of your house, and they'd roll down the hill and hit my front door, and that'sthe way they were cast." Loy replied, "Well, you must have been out thenight I rolled you Parnell," referring to the infamous 1937flop in which Loy co-starred with Clark Gable.

Evelyn Prentice was not the disaster Parnellwould be, but critics were not terribly fond of it either. They did, however, takenote of the fine performances by both Powell and Loy, and were particularly impressedby how well Loy handled her role's heavy emotionalism. It was one of the few timesat this point in her career that Loy was allowed to show that she was a fine dramaticactress. But after Evelyn Prentice, it was back to comedy andhappy on-screen marriages for one of the most beloved teams in films. William Powelland Myrna Loy would play husband and wife a total of thirteen times.

Director: William K. Howard
Producer: John W. Considine, Jr.
Screenplay: Lenore J. Coffee, based on the novel by W.E. Woodward
Cinematography: Charles G. Clarke
Editor: Frank Hull
Costume Design: Dolly Tree
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Oscar Raclin
Principal Cast: Myrna Loy (Evelyn Prentice), William Powell (John Prentice), UnaMerkel (Amy Drexel), Harvey Stephens (Lawrence Kennard), Isabel Jewell (Judith Wilson), Rosalind Russell (Nancy Harrison), Edward Brophy (Eddie Delaney), Cora Sue Collins (Dorothy Prentice), Jessie Ralph (Mrs. Blake).
BW-79m. Closed captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri

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