Man of the World (1931)

Directed by Edward Goodman & Richard Wallace

Tonight I watched the first of my Carole Lombard movies from the Carole Lombard: The Glamour Collection set. Visually, it’s pretty good for movies this old though it would be nice if they had done some cleaning up. (I say that having only seen one film from the collection, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.) But for the price, the quality is pretty good.

The set is two discs with six movies included. This means movies on both sides of the discs, something I don’t care for but, again, given the price I can live with it.

The first film I watched was Man of the World (1931). I knew nothing about this film so imagine my pleasure when I saw it starred William Powell. Yes, it was a film that featured the stars of my all-time favourite movie My Man Godfrey, Powell and Carole Lombard.

William Powell and Carole Lombard in Man of the World.

It’s no where near the quality of that movie but Man of the World is pretty good, if a bit odd. The first half is comedic in the romantic-comedy set up tradition.

Powell is a sophisticated ne’er-do-well, falls in love with the charming daughter (Lombard) of a wealthy twit, she falls in love with him … And using what has since become a formulaic idea, he must confess to her who he really is and … and this is where it takes a different tack from the usual.

Normally, he would attempt to explain himself but never get a chance to. In most movies there is a kind of coitis-interruptus when this happens. In this case, Powell does get to explain himself. That was a surprise.

The film takes even stranger directions than what we’ve become accustomed to in that she accepts him despite his past (which, given he’s confessed, we expect) but he is guilt ridden by the idea of his past and the notion of saddling her with it, so he torpedoes the relationship.

In other words, the comedic sensibility of the opening half of the movie shuffles off to Buffalo and the film takes a somber turn for its latter half.

Carole Lombard and William Powell in Man of the World.

Yes, it’s romantic and to an extent it works, but it is not the expected resolution of the storyline. It should also be said it has a younger William Powell playing a bit more seriously than we have come to expect from his later films. He’s good at this but the scenes, again in the latter half, are not balanced by lighter ones so there is a heaviness to the movie’s final half partly due to Powell’s character.

He’s just too glum.

Having said all that, I still found the film quite delightful. However, it is a bit confused, I think, in that it wants to tell both a serious story and a lighter romance at the same time and it just doesn’t work that way. You have to make a choice.

The movie is worth seeing however, especially if you’re a fan of Carole Lombard and William Powell. (This is one of Carole Lombard’s earliest films.) You can see the beginnings of what would later be a great team in My Man Godfrey.

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