The Law and the Lady


1h 44m 1951
The Law and the Lady

Brief Synopsis

A society jewel thief falls for one of her marks.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Law and Lady Loverly, The Law and the Lovely Lady
Genre
Comedy
Crime
Release Date
Jul 20, 1951
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Last of Mrs. Cheyney by Frederick Lonsdale (London, 22 Sep 1925).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,367ft (11 reels)

Synopsis

In turn of the century London, ladies maid Jane Hoskins is wrongly accused of stealing diamond earrings from her shrewish employer, Lady Sybil Minden. As Inspector McGraw questions Jane, Nigel Duxbury reveals that he stole his sister-in-law's earrings as partial payment for the loss of his inheritance to his five-minute older twin brother, Lord Minden. Nigel negotiates a £200 severence for Jane, then invites her to an elegant restaurant. Jane reveals that she wants to use the money to live like a lady and marry well, and he lets her wear the earrings, which Minden gave to him. At dinner, Nigel is impressed by Jane's polished manners and ability to fleece fellow diner Sir Roland Epping out of one hundred pounds for a phony charity. Although Jane initially feels guilty, when Nigel proposes that they become partners, she agrees. In Monte Carlo, Jane, now calling herself Lady Loverly, easily tricks an elderly English colonel into losing money to Nigel at Chemin de fer . When the police later ask the pair to leave the country, Nigel offers to let Jane out of their agreement, but she stays with him. They eventually get to Shanghai, where the Chinese police become the latest to ask them to leave. Nigel proposes that they sail to San Francisco, where he plants stories about "Lady Loverly." Jane is flooded with invitations from social-climbing San Franciscans, but asks Mrs. Julia Wortin, a rough-hewn, but extremely wealthy widow, to tea. Julia, who is known for her generosity, gladly offers money to Jane's charity, then invites her for the weekend. Nigel, posing as "Hoskins," an unemployed butler, is hired by Julia on Jane's suggestion. A few days later, when Jane arrives at Julia's estate, Nigel tells her about Julia's necklace, which is kept under lock and key in the newly burglar-alarmed house. That night, Jane is attracted to Julia's neighbor, Juan Dinas. Julia thinks the flirtation is romantic, but Nigel is jealous and banker Tracy Collins, another houseguest, wants Jane for himself. Just before she goes to bed, Jane asks Julia for the key to her safe, for her diamond earrings, but does not steal the necklace. Next day, Juan takes Jane to his hacienda and proposes. Juan's grandmother, Princess Margarita, a niece of the King of Spain, is cordial, then secretly looks at a book on English nobility and finds that Jane is not who she seems. After she angrily tells Juan, Juan takes Jane home, but does not withdraw his proposal. Later, Jane tells Nigel that she is probably in love with Juan and wants to marry him. Nigel wishes her well, and agrees that they have grown too fond of Julia to steal her necklace, then passionately kisses Jane, prompting her to give him the earrings so he will have some money. When Nigel tells her that he pawned the real earrings a long time ago, Jane feels responsible for his situation and says she will leave with him in the morning. That night, Jane reconsiders and steals the necklace from Julia's bedroom safe. When Jane goes to the balcony, she sees Nigel and throws the necklace to him, but is observed by Juan and the groomsman Panchito, who detains Nigel while Juan climbs up to Jane's room. Juan confronts Jane about her deception and theft, which she freely admits. He tries to kiss her, but accidentally sets off the burglar alarm, which immediately summons Julia and her guests. Juan keeps quiet about the necklace and says that he entered Julia's room uninvited. Jane then tells Julia about stealing her necklace and apologizes, after which Nigel arrives, saying that he is the mastermind. He and Jane offer to leave immediately, but Collins wants to have them arrested until Nigel reveals that he has a proposal letter that Collins foolishly wrote to Jane naming Juan, Julia and the other houseguests as scoundrels. Not wanting to be made a public fool, Collins offers $15,000 for the letter, but Jane refuses and asks everyone to leave. A few moments later, Nigel and Juan both overhear Jane crying. The next morning, Jane is packed to leave, alone, but on Julia's insistence stays for breakfast. Nigel and Juan then arrive, saying that they have decided Jane should stay and marry Juan. She is irritated that they have not consulted her, and when Nigel gives her the earrings, saying that they are real, she angrily denounces him. As they argue, Juan leaves, knowing Jane and Nigel are in love. Nigel then promises to pay back all of their victims, even if he has to go to work. Just then, the sheriff arrives, accompanied by McGraw, who reveals that Epping is pressing charges against them, but Lord Minden has died, thus making Nigel the new lord. Jane gives Julia the earrings as a gift and she and Nigel leave with McGraw, who says that they won't need to be "away" for very long.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Law and Lady Loverly, The Law and the Lovely Lady
Genre
Comedy
Crime
Release Date
Jul 20, 1951
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Last of Mrs. Cheyney by Frederick Lonsdale (London, 22 Sep 1925).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,367ft (11 reels)

Articles

The Law and the Lady


"The story begins in London at the turn of the century. If they had known what was ahead, they never would have turned it."
Opening title for The Law and the Lady

Greer Garson was nearing the end of her reign as queen of the MGM lot when she made this rarely seen adaptation of Frederick Lonsdale's comedy of manners The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. With the declining power of Louis B. Mayer, her number one fan at the studio, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable roles for the aging actress, particularly as changing audience tastes made her image as the stalwart noble Englishwoman seem passé. Yet Garson was so firmly typed, she wasn't allowed to display the versatility of her younger MGM rival, Deborah Kerr. It wasn't that she lacked the acting chops to pull off roles like Spencer Tray's alcoholic wife in Edward, My Son (1949), which had brought Kerr an Oscar® nomination. It was just that MGM's executives didn't want to risk such a radical departure for her. The furthest they seemed willing to go was putting the redhead in a black wig for her role in The Law and the Lady as a former maid masquerading as an aristocrat to fleece her wealthy hosts.

After the failure of The Miniver Story (1950), a sequel to her Oscar®-winning Mrs. Miniver (1942), the studio dusted off Lonsdale's play, which it had filmed twice previously. Under its original title, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney had served as a very popular vehicle for Norma Shearer in 1929 but had fared less well for Joan Crawford in 1937. With MGM's contract for the rights due to expire in 1953, they may have felt they had one more shot at generating box office with the comic romance. For the 1951 version, the studio changed the title and most of the character names. Writers Leonard Spigelgass and Karl Tunberg also gave the story a more international flavor, sending Garson and criminal cohort Michael Wilding trotting off to Monte Carlo, Shanghai and San Francisco, all of it reconstructed on the MGM lot.

The story supplied some rare opportunities for Garson to display her comic gifts, skills she rarely got to use in her MGM vehicles. And the studio gave her two hot leading men. As her partner in crime, Michael Wilding made his first U.S.-shot film, on loan from Allied Artists, a studio for which he would never make an American picture. He had been coming along nicely in British films, particularly after appearing in Noel Coward and David Lean's World War II epic In Which We Serve (1942), and had starred in two of Alfred Hitchcock's lesser efforts, Under Capricorn (1949) and Stage Fright (1950). His presence at MGM put him in the perfect place to become the second Mr. Elizabeth Taylor, catching her on the rebound from her disastrous first marriage to Nicky Hilton.

Also paying court to Garson was Argentine heartthrob Fernando Lamas, in only his second MGM picture. He had been discovered by studio drama coach Lucille Ryman when he co-starred with her husband, John Carroll, in The Avengers (1950), a Republic film shot on location in Mexico. Like Ricardo Montalban, he provided a solidly attractive leading man for stars like Lana Turner and Esther Williams. Unlike the happily married Montalban, he was also an ideal escort for MGM's contract women, eventually marrying the studio's Arlene Dahl and Esther Williams after a torrid affair with Turner.

Rounding out the cast was one of the few character players remaining from MGM's golden years, Marjorie Main, as the wealthy San Francisco widow whose jewels tempt Garson and Wilding. Main was still at the studio because of the success of her Ma and Pa Kettle films, made at Universal, which often led the year's box-office reports. Unfortunately for Main, the films were made on loan-out, so the hefty sums Universal paid for her services went straight into MGM's corporate coffers, while all she got was the much-lower salary she had negotiated on signing with the studio years earlier.

Producer Edwin H. Knopf, brother of publishing magnate Alfred Knopf, had not directed since 1933's The Rebel. He had started his career as a stage actor before turning to producing, which brought him to MGM in 1941 for a remake of The Trial of Mary Dugan, starring Larraine Day and Robert Young. His major productions there were The Seventh Cross (1944) and Edward, My Son, both starring Spencer Tracy, and the 1953 hit Lili, with Leslie Caron. The Law and the Lady would be his only film there as a director.

Even with substantial re-writes (or possibly because of them), The Law and the Lady did not fare well with critics or audiences on its initial release. Nor did it help that the film had to be withdrawn from release in 1953 with the expiration of MGM's rights to the original play. In recent years, however, it has attracted positive notice from Garson's fans, who relish the chance to see the star demonstrating her comic abilities while wearing a glamorous wardrobe. The film's limited availability -- it has not been released for home viewing and rarely turns up on television -- has added to its cachet, making it a real find for movie buffs.

Producer-Director: Edwin H. Knopf
Screenplay: Leonard Spigelgass, Karl Tunberg
Based on the play The Last of Mrs. Cheyney by Frederick Lonsdale
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Music: Carmen Dragon
Cast: Greer Garson (Jane Hoskins), Michael Wilding (Nigel Duxbury), Fernando Lamas (Juan Dinas), Marjorie Main (Julia Wortin), Hayden Rorke (Tracy Collans), Margalo Gillmore (Cora Caighn), Rhys Williams (Inspector McGraw), Natalie Schafer (Pamela Pemberson), Andre Charlot (Maitre d'Hotel), Bess Flowers (Mrs. Bruno Thayer), Anna Q. Nilsson (Mrs. Scholmm), Victor Sen Yung (Chinese Manager).
BW-105m.

by Frank Miller

The Law And The Lady

The Law and the Lady

"The story begins in London at the turn of the century. If they had known what was ahead, they never would have turned it." Opening title for The Law and the Lady Greer Garson was nearing the end of her reign as queen of the MGM lot when she made this rarely seen adaptation of Frederick Lonsdale's comedy of manners The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. With the declining power of Louis B. Mayer, her number one fan at the studio, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable roles for the aging actress, particularly as changing audience tastes made her image as the stalwart noble Englishwoman seem passé. Yet Garson was so firmly typed, she wasn't allowed to display the versatility of her younger MGM rival, Deborah Kerr. It wasn't that she lacked the acting chops to pull off roles like Spencer Tray's alcoholic wife in Edward, My Son (1949), which had brought Kerr an Oscar® nomination. It was just that MGM's executives didn't want to risk such a radical departure for her. The furthest they seemed willing to go was putting the redhead in a black wig for her role in The Law and the Lady as a former maid masquerading as an aristocrat to fleece her wealthy hosts. After the failure of The Miniver Story (1950), a sequel to her Oscar®-winning Mrs. Miniver (1942), the studio dusted off Lonsdale's play, which it had filmed twice previously. Under its original title, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney had served as a very popular vehicle for Norma Shearer in 1929 but had fared less well for Joan Crawford in 1937. With MGM's contract for the rights due to expire in 1953, they may have felt they had one more shot at generating box office with the comic romance. For the 1951 version, the studio changed the title and most of the character names. Writers Leonard Spigelgass and Karl Tunberg also gave the story a more international flavor, sending Garson and criminal cohort Michael Wilding trotting off to Monte Carlo, Shanghai and San Francisco, all of it reconstructed on the MGM lot. The story supplied some rare opportunities for Garson to display her comic gifts, skills she rarely got to use in her MGM vehicles. And the studio gave her two hot leading men. As her partner in crime, Michael Wilding made his first U.S.-shot film, on loan from Allied Artists, a studio for which he would never make an American picture. He had been coming along nicely in British films, particularly after appearing in Noel Coward and David Lean's World War II epic In Which We Serve (1942), and had starred in two of Alfred Hitchcock's lesser efforts, Under Capricorn (1949) and Stage Fright (1950). His presence at MGM put him in the perfect place to become the second Mr. Elizabeth Taylor, catching her on the rebound from her disastrous first marriage to Nicky Hilton. Also paying court to Garson was Argentine heartthrob Fernando Lamas, in only his second MGM picture. He had been discovered by studio drama coach Lucille Ryman when he co-starred with her husband, John Carroll, in The Avengers (1950), a Republic film shot on location in Mexico. Like Ricardo Montalban, he provided a solidly attractive leading man for stars like Lana Turner and Esther Williams. Unlike the happily married Montalban, he was also an ideal escort for MGM's contract women, eventually marrying the studio's Arlene Dahl and Esther Williams after a torrid affair with Turner. Rounding out the cast was one of the few character players remaining from MGM's golden years, Marjorie Main, as the wealthy San Francisco widow whose jewels tempt Garson and Wilding. Main was still at the studio because of the success of her Ma and Pa Kettle films, made at Universal, which often led the year's box-office reports. Unfortunately for Main, the films were made on loan-out, so the hefty sums Universal paid for her services went straight into MGM's corporate coffers, while all she got was the much-lower salary she had negotiated on signing with the studio years earlier. Producer Edwin H. Knopf, brother of publishing magnate Alfred Knopf, had not directed since 1933's The Rebel. He had started his career as a stage actor before turning to producing, which brought him to MGM in 1941 for a remake of The Trial of Mary Dugan, starring Larraine Day and Robert Young. His major productions there were The Seventh Cross (1944) and Edward, My Son, both starring Spencer Tracy, and the 1953 hit Lili, with Leslie Caron. The Law and the Lady would be his only film there as a director. Even with substantial re-writes (or possibly because of them), The Law and the Lady did not fare well with critics or audiences on its initial release. Nor did it help that the film had to be withdrawn from release in 1953 with the expiration of MGM's rights to the original play. In recent years, however, it has attracted positive notice from Garson's fans, who relish the chance to see the star demonstrating her comic abilities while wearing a glamorous wardrobe. The film's limited availability -- it has not been released for home viewing and rarely turns up on television -- has added to its cachet, making it a real find for movie buffs. Producer-Director: Edwin H. Knopf Screenplay: Leonard Spigelgass, Karl Tunberg Based on the play The Last of Mrs. Cheyney by Frederick Lonsdale Cinematography: George J. Folsey Music: Carmen Dragon Cast: Greer Garson (Jane Hoskins), Michael Wilding (Nigel Duxbury), Fernando Lamas (Juan Dinas), Marjorie Main (Julia Wortin), Hayden Rorke (Tracy Collans), Margalo Gillmore (Cora Caighn), Rhys Williams (Inspector McGraw), Natalie Schafer (Pamela Pemberson), Andre Charlot (Maitre d'Hotel), Bess Flowers (Mrs. Bruno Thayer), Anna Q. Nilsson (Mrs. Scholmm), Victor Sen Yung (Chinese Manager). BW-105m. by Frank Miller

Quotes

I'm not interested in character, Baroness. I plan to become a lady, and for that, no character is necessary.
- Jane Hoskins

Trivia

Notes

The film's working titles were The Law and Lady Loverly and The Law and the Lovely Lady. The following written prologue appears at the end of the opening credits: "This story begins in London at the turn of the century. If they had known what was ahead, they never would have turned it." Michael Wilding is credited twice in the end credits, first as "Nigel Duxbury" and then as "Lord Minden." The Law and the Lady marked the first time English actor Wilding (1912-1979) made a motion picture in the United States, although he had made several British-American co-productions in England in the 1940s. Wilding was borrowed from Allied Artists for this film. A Hollywood Reporter news item includes Joan Cavendish in the cast, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       Frederick Lonsdale's play was previously filmed by M-G-M in 1929 under the title The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, directed by Sidney Franklin and starring Norma Shearer and Basil Rathbone (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30) and in 1937 under the same title, directed by Richard Boleslawski and starring Joan Crawford, William Powell and Robert Montgomery (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In both of the earlier versions, the principal action took place in England and the female protagonist worked alone. According to a November 12, 1952 Daily Variety news item, M-G-M's rights to the Lonsdale play were due to expire in October 1953, and the studio was about to alert exhibitors that they had to end all bookings of The Law and the Lady by that time.