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What Every Woman Knows

What Every Woman Knows(1934)

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teaser What Every Woman Knows (1934)

Peter Pan wasn't J.M. Barrie's only story about a boyish nighttime visitor. In What Every Woman Knows, a family in Kilburne, Scotland discovers an impoverished scholar John Shand (Brian Aherne) sneaking into their library at night. They strike a deal: we pay for your schooling, and in five years you marry our spinster sister (Helen Hayes). But when the young scholar is elected to Parliament, it's his shrewd wife who finagles a personal failing into a public triumph. After two silent film versions and a 1926 run on Broadway, director Gregory La Cava was pegged to create the first sound film version of Barrie's play for MGM. While usually famous for snappy overlapping soundtracks in films like My Man Godfrey (1936), La Cava here instead created scenes of great stillness broken only by musical, brogue-accented dialogue, demonstrating an instinct for the difference between quiet and silence. But La Cava could be tough off the set too. After ordering cast and crew back for retakes after a preview bombed (and threatening to pack the script with Scottish jokes), Hayes was so disheartened by the experience that she chose to focus her attention to the stage instead of the screen.

By Violet LeVoit

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