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Evelyn Prentice
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,Evelyn Prentice

Evelyn Prentice

Evelyn Prentice (1934) is the third of fourteen films William Powell and Myrna Loy made together. MGM rushed the film into production and into theaters to capitalize on the success of their second pairing in The Thin Man (1934), but the two films couldn't be more different. Evelyn Prentice 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 with a roving eye. When his wife finds out about his latest affair, she has a retaliatory affair 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 had hoped 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 as the Perfect Wife. In that film, she first loves bad guy Clark Gable, but marries his best friend, good guy Powell, who ends up becoming the governor. Loy recalled that the chemistry between her and Powell was instant, and instinctive. "He was 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 The Thin Man, and from then on, Powell and Loy were a great screen team.

MGM spared no expense in the production of Evelyn Prentice, giving the film its typical MGM high-gloss look. There was a strong supporting cast, with dependable veterans like Una Merkel, Jessie Ralph, and Edward Brophy joined by a newcomer, Rosalind Russell, in her film debut. Russell played a woman with whom Powell has an affair. Russell became extremely fond of Powell, and grateful to him for his helpfulness and kindness. In her memoirs, Russell recalls being cast opposite Powell in Rendezvous (1935). She told Powell she knew that he'd rather have Loy in the part, and he replied, "I love Myrna, but I think 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 two also became good friends. Since they were the same type, MGM would use Russell as a threat to Loy when Loy was being uncooperative, but it did not affect their friendship. The two women were neighbors, and once at a party, Russell teased Loy about 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's the way they were cast." Loy replied, "Well, you must have been out the night I rolled you Parnell," referring to the infamous 1937 flop in which Loy co-starred with Clark Gable.

Evelyn Prentice was not the disaster Parnell would be, but critics were not terribly fond of it either. They did, however, take note of the fine performances by both Powell and Loy, and were particularly impressed by how well Loy handled her role's heavy emotionalism. It was one of the few times at this point in her career that Loy was allowed to show that she was a fine dramatic actress. But after Evelyn Prentice, it was back to comedy and happy on-screen marriages for one of the most beloved teams in films. William Powell and 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), Una Merkel (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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