Cast & Crew
As Joseph Pattison is sentenced, he warns District Attorney Jim Stowell of retribution. After Pattison is publicly executed, Jim counts the eleven executions he has prosecuted on an abacus made with miniature skulls, reckoning that he has twenty-four more to go. Soon after the Tatler publishes rumors of an affair between Jim's wife Lucy and a graduate student, Phil, "Sharpy," Jim's secretary, reminds him of his wife's birthday. As the Stowells leave home for a dinner celebration, Jim is shot by an associate of Pattison, but in the hospital, the bullet proves only to have grazed Jim, and Dan, his press aide, regards the incident as a publicity triumph. Jim, who has neglected his wife for his work, decides to take a long-delayed honeymoon. After returning to his office, he finds Kirk, his aide, roughly interrogating Professor Shaw MacAllen. Jim takes MacAllen aside and apparently tries to console him, convincing him to confess to murdering his unfaithful wife. Jim then abruptly excuses MacAllen, because he secretly had recorded the confession, and takes a copy of the recording to add to his collection. MacAllen's wealthy relatives hire distinguished lawyer David Morrow for the defense, but Jim is determined to demand the death sentence for MacAllen, because he does not believe in the concept of a "crime of passion." During the summertime trial that attracts national attention, Jim requests that Lucy stop seeing Phil, as he is head of a student committee supporting MacAllen. One evening during the trial, Jim returns home, and he and Lucy unconsciously re-enact "the kiss before the mirror," as MacAllen's confession has been labeled by the press. Jim listens again to the recording of MacAllen, then follows Lucy to Phil's home. He is about to shoot the couple when he realizes how his ruthless ways have almost caused him to murder the one he loves. The next day, Jim, still dazed, announces that the prosecution will lower the charges against MacAllen to second degree murder. Jim then asks Lucy, who is leaving, to forgive him and start anew. At that moment, Phil and Elizabeth, his girl friend, dash in and announce that they have just been married, with help from Lucy. Although reporters suspect Jim has been bribed, he is not concerned, and informs Dan that he is leaving on a vacation with Lucy. He then tells Sharpy to smash the abacus.
Samuel S. Hinds
Edward J. Le Saint
J. Anthony Hughes
Wives Under Suspicion
When he promises his beautiful wife Lucy (Gail Patrick) a vacation and his undivided attention, their marriage looks like it could be on the mend. That is, until a high-profile murder case lands on his desk, involving a political science professor, Shaw MacAllen (Ralph Morgan), who murdered his philandering wife in a fit of jealousy. When MacAllen confesses all to Stowell on an irrefutable sound recording, the D.A. is determined to send the pitiful man to the electric chair. Stowell fights the defense's claims of MacAllen's insanity, anxious to win at any cost, and at great peril to his own marriage.
Soon the MacAllen case is spilling over into Stowell's own life in eerie ways. Bringing a decided thriller ambiance to the proceedings, Stowell begins to create his own murderous fantasies of catching Lucy in flagrante delicto with her handsome young friend Phil (William Lundigan).
British-born director James Whale's marital and courtroom thriller Wives was a remake of his earlier The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) which he felt "hadn't come out right." Whale enlisted longtime Frank Capra collaborator Myles Connolly -- who had worked with the latter director on Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Lost Horizon (1937) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) -- to rewrite the script.
Significant changes to the script included the transformation of the defense attorney in the first film to the prosecuting attorney in the second. In the Wives remake, the wife was also innocent of having an extramarital affair, while in Kiss her guilt was made clear. In another memorable change of tack, Whale began Wives Under Suspicion with a highly expressionistic vignette at odds with the realism of the rest of the film. The stylish, beautifully shot sequence of a condemned killer's last days anticipated the edgy film noirs to come.
Whale was applauded by Universal's M.F. Murphy for finishing Wives in record time, a full five days ahead of schedule and $30,000 under budget. Though its title was generally considered ineffective by critics, the film garnered favorable reviews including the Hollywood Spectator's concession that it was "better than its title."
Though he directed such diverse material as the World War I melodrama Waterloo Bridge (1931), the British domestic drama One More River (1934) and the rousing Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein musical Show Boat (1936), Whale is best remembered for the expressionist mood and subtle black comedy of his four definitive Universal horror films: Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Despite the enormous success he brought the studio with his groundbreaking horror film Frankenstein, Whale was disappointed by his tenure at Universal. He felt the studio did little to earn its share of his earnings and awarded him lackluster projects like the critically-trounced desert-island film Sinners in Paradise (1938). And so, at the end of his Universal contract, he found a new agent, Phil Berg, who helped him secure the "A" picture The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) for Whale to direct. The film also proved an unprecedented coup for the director, who received a percentage of the profits for the first and last time.
Some have said that it was Whale's homosexuality that hastened his eventual retirement from Hollywood to pursue his interest in painting. After returning to film one last time in 1949 to make the unreleased Hello Out There, Whale finally died in 1957, drowned in his swimming pool under mysterious circumstances.
Director: James Whale
Producer: Edmund Grainger
Screenplay: Myles Connolly (based on the story "Suspicion" by Ladislas Fodor)
Cinematography: George Robinson
Production Design: Jack Otterson
Music: Charles Previn
Cast: Warren William (District Atty. Jim Stowell), Gail Patrick (Lucy Stowell), Ralph Morgan (Prof. Shaw MacAllen), William Lundigan (Phil), Constance Moore (Elizabeth), Cecil Cunningham (Sharpy), Samuel S. Hinds (Dave Marrow), Jonathan Hale (Dan Allison), Lillian Yarbo (Creola).
by Felicia Feaster
Wives Under Suspicion
Hell's Angels (1930)
Howard Hughes had been at work since 1927 on his first major screen effort, a picture he intended to rival the hit aviator flick (and first Best Picture Oscar winner) Wings (1927). A year and a half into the production of Hell's Angels, Hughes had lost his wife (to divorce), two stunt pilots and a mechanic (killed filming the movie's stunning aerial sequences), two directors (Marshall Neilan and Luther Reed; Howard Hawks and Edmund Goulding were also among those said to have worked on it), and more than $2 million. And he still had roughly 2 million feet of unedited silent footage in a market that virtually overnight was clamoring for talkies. Rather than scrap the whole thing, Hughes decided to add sound to the air footage and re-shoot the dialogue sequences. That was bad news for the film's leading lady, Greta Nissen, a Norwegian dumped from the sound version because of her very thick accent, and good news for Jean Harlow, a fresh face on the Hollywood scene who took the opportunity to make a real impression on audiences and reviewers - at least for her looks and sex appeal, if not for what many called her "awful" acting.
Harlow, known in those pre-Code days for appearing sans lingerie, was cast rather improbably as a British siren who comes between two aviator brothers fighting the Germans in World War I. Hughes dressed his starlet in gowns with highly revealing necklines, causing endless arguments with censors. Harlow also got to deliver one of the most memorable lines in cinema history when she asked co-star Ben Lyon (an experienced pilot in real life) if he would be shocked if she slipped into "something more comfortable." Immortal as the words have become, Harlow thought it "the corniest line in movie history." That wasn't the only downside of her first big break in the movies. Hughes, who had taken over direction of the film at this point, brought in British James Whale, soon to become famous as the director of Frankenstein (1931), to helm the dramatic sequences, but Whale found it impossible to guide Harlow toward anything resembling a decent performance. By most accounts of those on the set, she was "one of the world's worst actresses." Hughes even tried his hand at directing her in a few scenes, to little avail. But he did attempt to make use of her more obvious assets by filming some of her scenes in color, which required exceptionally intense lighting. Forced to stand under those harsh lights 16 hours a day and generally abused by her directors, Harlow developed "Klieg eyes" (burned eyeballs) and a bad case of nerves and insecurity. Her gratitude and excitement at being signed to a long-term contract by Hughes soon gave way to bitter disappointment, as her producer ignored her and her career and eventually sold her contract to MGM, where she would earn millions and reign as the decade's leading sex goddess and one of the most beloved performers until her untimely death in 1937.
The love triangle plot of Hell's Angels is certainly secondary to the action sequences, and for all the troubles during shooting, the flying sequences remain spectacular, even by today's computer-generated standards. (Cinematographers Tony Gaudio and Harry Perry were nominated for their work.) After some stunt men were killed, the remaining pilots refused to perform a dangerous aerial sequence Hughes demanded. An expert pilot himself, Hughes did his own flying, getting the shot but crashing the plane and breaking several bones in the process. But with some amazing footage already in the can, and determined to make his mark in Hollywood, the millionaire playboy spared no expense, shooting roughly 250 feet of film for every foot that was used in the final cut and running costs up to nearly $4 million. He went all out promoting it, too, staging what is still the largest movie premiere ever. A mob of 50,000 people (Hughes's company claimed it was half a million) lined Hollywood Boulevard leading up to Grauman's Chinese Theater, May 27, 1930. The street was illuminated by 185 arc lights Hughes rented at a cost of $14,000. Scalpers sold $11 tickets for $50, and an actual fighter squadron flew overhead. By the time the film was scheduled to start, the crowd was swarming the limos of celebrity guests, forcing the overwhelmed Los Angeles Police Department to call the National Guard for back up. (Was this the inspiration for the movie premiere riot at the end of Nathaniel West's 1939 novel, The Day of the Locust?) Harlow, appearing all in white two hours later, made a lasting impression that helped further her career more than her limited acting abilities at that time ever could. Although a popular success, Hell's Angels was nowhere near able to recoup its staggering costs on its initial release.
Director: Howard Hughes, James Whale
Producer: Howard Hughes
Screenplay: Harry Behn, Howard Estabrook, Joseph Moncure March, from a story by March and Marshall Neilan
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio, Elmer Dyer, Harry Perry, E. Burton Steene, Dewey Wrigley, Harry Zech
Editing: Douglass Biggs, Frank Lawrence, Perry Hollingsworth
Art Direction: Carroll Clark, Julian Boone Fleming
Original Music: Hugo Riesenfeld
Cast: Ben Lyon (Monte Rutledge), James Hall (Roy Rutledge), Jean Harlow (Helen), John Darrow (Karl Armstedt), Lucien Prival (Baron von Kranz), Frank Clarke (Lt. Von Bruen), Roy Wilson (Baldy Maloney).
by Rob Nixon
Hell's Angels (1930)
Wives Under Suspicion, originally called Suspicion, was a remake of the 1933 Universal film The Kiss Before the Mirror, which was also directed by James Whale. According to modern sources, Wives Under Suspicion began shooting on a $250,000 budget. It was completed four days ahead of schedule and $30,000 under budget. Modern sources list Fred Frank as assistant director and credit Jack Pierce with make-up.