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The Common Law

The Common Law(1931)

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In Paris, American Valerie West leaves Dick Cardemon, her wealthy lover, and applies for a modeling job with John Neville, a young American artist. After overcoming her modesty, Valerie strips for John, and struck by her proportions, he hires her. Although they both maintain a professional air with each other, Valerie and John soon fall in love, and John's painting skills blossom. Their romantic happiness is shattered, however, when John's friend Sam, who has been solicited by John's sister, Clare Collis, to talk John into returning to America, reveals to John that Valerie was once Dick's lover. Jealous and repulsed, John rails against Valerie, who calls him a hypocrite for rejecting her as "not clean enough." After Valerie leaves him, John, who was about to propose marriage, stops painting and grows despondent and bored. When he sees Valerie at a wild Paris nightclub with the lecherous Querido, his jealousy is re-kindled, but he pretends to be indifferent. Valerie, however, follows him to his studio and, putting aside her pride, begs to start over with him. Happily reunited, John proposes marriage, but Valerie rejects the idea, insisting that they wait until they are both sure of their feelings. Soon after, Clare, who has been informed about her brother's affair with Valerie, cables John to return to his sick, wealthy father in Tarrytown, New York. There, the domineering Clare invites Valerie to join the family on a yachting party, to which she has also invited Dick and Stephanie Brown, a former girl friend of John. On the yacht, Clare uses Stephanie and Dick to create jealousy between John and Valerie, who is advised by John's understanding father that marriage may be the only way to save her reputation. After a drunken Dick attempts to seduce Valerie in her cabin, John knocks him out, and the young couple finally abandons the yacht to find a justice of the peace.