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Other Men's Women

Other Men's Women(1931)

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teaser Other Men's Women (1931)

In the saucy William Wellman programmer Other Men's Women (1931), Bill (Grant Withers) is train engineer with wild, womanizing ways and a taste for booze. His occasional girlfriend is a fast-talking waitress named Marie (Joan Blondell) who describes herself to a customer as A.P.O.: Ain't Puttin' Out. Marie longs to marry, but Bill is clearly still sowing his wild oats. His longtime pal is fellow engineer Jack (Regis Toomey), who has a charming wife Lily (Mary Astor) and a quaint cottage in the country. When Bill is thrown out of his boarding house Jack invites him to stay with him. Complications ensue when, despite their best intentions, Bill and Lily find themselves falling in love. In a violent fight over Lily, Jack is gravely injured and ultimately left blind. In the ultimate gesture of friendship, Jack sacrifices himself so that Bill can live.

Other Men's Women also features a charming appearance by James Cagney as Jack and Bill's railroad pal Ed Bailey. It was Cagney's third film and featured the actor as a vivacious engineer with a taste for dancing, undoubtedly a reflection of Cagney's initial entry into show business as a hoofer. Cagney would later do another bit of dancing when he meets Jean Harlow in his breakout role in director William Wellman's The Public Enemy (1931).

Cagney and Blondell had appeared on stage together in the play "Penny Arcade" and reprised their roles for their first onscreen pairing in the film version of that play known as Sinners' Holiday (1930). After making that film, both Cagney and Blondell went on to sign long-term Warners contracts. The two consummate fast-talking, streetwise actors would go on to appear in a total of seven pictures together including the aforementioned The Public Enemy in which Cagney first established his iconic tough-guy gangster image. Critic Otis Ferguson noted of Cagney, that it would be "hard to say what our impression of the total American character would have been without him."

Other Men's Women was first released under the title The Steel Highway based on the story of the same name written by accomplished female scriptwriter Maude Fulton whose other scripts included The Maltese Falcon(1931), Under Eighteen (1932) and Broadway Bad (1933).

In her autobiography A Life on Film, lead actress Mary Astor called Other Men's Women, "a piece of cheese," though she did single out "some damn good actors - James Cagney, Joan Blondell - in small parts." The film was so unmemorable for Cagney that he even fails to mention it in his autobiography, Cagney By Cagney, skipping from a discussion of The Doorway to Hell (1930) to The Public Enemy.

The smooth-talking lothario-turned-heartsick best friend Bill was played by Grant Withers who eloped to Yuma, Arizona in 1930 with actress Loretta Young, becoming her first husband. Ironically enough, Mary Astor also eloped to Yuma in 1937 with her third husband actor-writer Manuel Del Campo. Pressure from Young's mother caused her and Withers' marriage to be annulled in 1931. Withers died in 1959 from an intentional overdose of sleeping pills. He left behind a suicide note telling family and friends that he was, "sorry I let them down."

Director Wellman had used the theme of the romantic triangle before in Wings (1927) and You Never Know Women (1926) and added other signature touches such as his documentary-like footage of the railroad yard where Bill and Jack work. Like Blondell and Cagney, Wellman's penchant for gritty realism would become emblematic of the tough Warners style.

Even though Other Men's Women was dismissed by some reviewers such as The New York Times which called the film "an unimportant little drama of the railroad yards," it also had its fans. Variety's critic called it "a good program picture."

Director: William A. Wellman
Screenplay: Maude Fulton, William K. Wells
Cinematography: Barney McGill
Film Editing: Edward M. McDermott
Music: Louis Silvers
Cast: Grant Withers (Bill White), Mary Astor (Lily Kulper), Regis Toomey (Jack Kulper), James Cagney (Ed Bailey), Fred Kohler (Haley), J. Farrell MacDonald (Peg-Leg).

by Felicia Feaster

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