Cast & Crew
Clara Kimball Young
After he saves the lives of three New Jersey steel mill workers, steel "boss" Richard "Dick" Brunton is invited to dinner by Arthur Parker, the mill owner, and is offered a reward for his courage. In front of Parker, his snobbish wife Henrietta and socialite daughter Dot, Dick refuses the reward but stays for dinner. During the meal, Dot, who had earlier ridiculed Dick behind his back, discovers that he is a former "All-American" Yale University halfback. Now enamored of Dick, Dot makes a bet with her skeptical father that she can win Dick's heart in four weeks. As planned, Dot proposes to Dick and convinces him to marry her in spite of their class differences and Dick's low salary. Dot then talks her father into promoting Dick to third vice-president and secures a handsome allowance for herself. After an expensive honeymoon in Europe, which has been financed by Parker, Dot and Dick return to New Jersey, where Dot has bought a lavish house. Although Dick resists the move, Dot insists that they stay and celebrates with a loud housewarming party. Six months later, Parker offers Dick, who now spends his work day reading bridge books and going to parties with Dot, a chance to promote a controversial engineering plan to a company in St. Louis. Anxious to prove himself, Dick eagerly accepts the challenge, but Dot refuses to leave town during the height of the social season. In spite of Dot's tears, Dick prepares to leave, but is counseled by his mother to make amends with Dot. Before Dick returns home, Dot has a rendezvous with Charlie Bates, a former admirer, who tries to seduce her in his apartment. When Dot shows up early the next morning, Dick, who has seen her with Charlie, questions her about her activities. Furious at Dot's lies, Dick berates her for turning him into a "kept husband" and announces their separation and his resignation from her father's firm. Eventually, however, Dot realizes her selfish foolishness and finds Dick, who has decided to go to St. Louis after all, at the train station. After apologizing, Dot agrees to live on Dick's salary and be a loving wife.
Clara Kimball Young
Dot takes one look at her father's handsome employee Richard Brunton (Joel McCrea) and is hopelessly smitten. Dot wagers with her father that she will get a proposal from Richard and is soon collecting on her bet. The marriage initially threatens to emasculate Richard, who loses interest in his career and finds himself dominated by Dot's vapid, social whirl of bridge games, cocktail parties and passive acceptance of life as a "kept" man. He must ultimately put his foot down and assert to the spoiled heiress that he is the man of the house and that they must live honestly off of his income alone, much to the petulant Dot's initial distress.
Though made in the years before Hollywood's Production Code placed uncompromising rules on the sex, drinking and violence that could be shown in movies, the romantic comedy Kept Husbands (1931) is far from the racy content of other Pre-Code movies of the time.
In fact, the film is in many ways highly conventional for how it reaffirms the gender roles in the Brunton household, arguing that the man and woman should fulfill their proper duties. In the Depression years, rich heiresses were not especially appealing figures for impoverished audiences. Conventions of the time demanded that haughty women like Dot be put in their place by the film's end.
Mackaill was a former London show girl who went on to America's famous Ziegfeld Follies and then to a string of light Hollywood comedies.
Her costar, California born Joel McCrea had a better run in Hollywood, as a rugged, handsome, all-American star of copious films. McCrea spent years toiling in silent and then sound productions, and was even quite literally plucked from a crowd of extras to play a larger role in The Jazz Age (1929). Will Rogers helped McCrea get a leg up in his career, apparently having a predisposition to like a fellow fan of ranching and the cowboy life.
McCrea hit his professional stride in a succession of high profile Hollywood films like Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942).
In the late Forties, however, McCrea made a definitive career shift and became a staple of the Western, a genre for which he is still best remembered. McCrea also appeared in a number of television programs with Western themes including "Four Star Playhouse" (1952-53) and "Wichita Town" (1959-60). He came out of retirement in 1962 to star alongside Randolph Scott in the Sam Peckinpah Western Ride the High Country.
McCrea was married to actress Frances Dee whom he met on the set of the 1933 drama The Silver Cord where he played opposite Irene Dunne. Their union lasted an atypically long 57 years, a lifetime in Hollywood's standards of coupledom. McCrea seemed to enjoy an equal amount of success in his private life as he did in his professional life. He invested wisely in livestock and real estate and made enough money to live very well apart from Hollywood as a gentleman rancher before his death in 1990.
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Producer: William LeBaron, Louis Sarecky
Screenplay: Forrest Halsey, Alfred Jackson
Cinematography: Jack MacKenzie
Production Design: Max Ree
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Dorothy Mackaill (Dorothea "Dot" Parker Brunton), Joel McCrea (Richard "Dick" Brunton), Ned Sparks (Hughie Hanready), Mary Carr (Mrs. Brunton), Clara Kimball Young (Mrs. Henrietta Post), Robert McWade (Arthur Parker).
by Felicia Feaster
Clara Kimball Young, a major star of the early silent period, made her sound film debut in this film after a six-year absence from the screen. In the "seduction" scene, Bryant Washburn, another silent film star, chases Dorothy Mackaill around his apartment in an obvious parody of silent film "melodramas." RKO borrowed Dorothy Mackaill and Lloyd Bacon from Warner Bros. for the production.