The beautiful and frivolous wife of a plantation owner in antebellum Louisiana proves unsatisfactory at running the household, leading her serious-minded husband to enlist the help of her unmarried sister.
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'The toy wife' or how to spoil your own life and the lives of others by being fickle and frivolous. This is the story of Gilberte, a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl who charms, attracts and seduces all the men she meets. Back in Louisiana after a stay in France, she will steal her fiancé from her loving and beloved sister Louise. Once married with George, she will prove a poor mother for little Georgie, a poor manager of the plantation and an unfaithful wife. She indeed starts an affair with André, the dashing young man she actually loves. Tragedy will ensue.Written by
Luise Rainer, having just won two Oscars the previous two years for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937) had so angered MGM head Louis B. Mayer by constantly demanding a higher salary that he cast her in this "B" picture as punishment. She would end her contract with the studio later in the year and would not make another film until Paramount's Hostages (1943). See more »
Opening title card: Gone is the flag of France from Lousiana, but until the civil war, the life of its French residents in New Orleans and on the great plantations was life under the old regime in France... See more »
This is a seldom seen film. We caught it on TCM, the best source for some of the best classic films of all times. The main attraction in watching this 1938 movie was a curiosity for watching Luise Ranier at the height of her Hollywood days.
As directed by Richard Thorpe, the film has its merits. This movie, based on a play, seems artificial, but that was the taste of those days and it will not disappoint, although it is a typical melodrama. The art direction of Cedric Gibbons is evident in the lush interiors of the elegant New Orleans mansions and the antebellum plantation owned by the Vallaire family.
This is a story about two sisters who loved each other dearly, but their relationship suffers a blow as George Sartoris will ask the flighty Gilberte "Frou Frou" Brigard to marry him instead of the woman who really loved him, her sister Louise. Frou Frou, a frivolous girl, only wanted the glamor of the social life in New Orleans. She liked George, but she never felt anything for her husband. Dashing Andre Vallaire awakens a fatal passion in her. In fact, that is her downfall and she lives to pay for her indiscretion.
Luise Ranier plays the young girl well. Her acting reminded us of another star of the day, Greta Garbo, although Ms. Ranier was not a product of the silent era. Both believed in the large gestures as a way to emphasize the lines they were reciting and both played to the camera in similar fashion. In fact, she sticks out from the rest of the cast, which obviously had another approach to acting.
The dashing Melvyn Douglas was good as George. Barbara O'Neil is perfect as the Louise, the noble sister that gives up her own happiness to make George happy. Robert Young cuts quite a figure as the handsome Andre. Alma Kruger, H.B. Warner, are seen in minor roles.
The film is a curiosity, and it should be seen as such because it probably will resonate with admirers of the classic films of that era.
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