SUtS: Norma Shearer

Carrie’s choice: The Divorcee (1930)

Airing at 11:00AM EST

I have to confess that, yet again, I haven’t seen this  movie. I want to, though. Norma Shearer plays a woman named Jerry who is in love with Ted. Jerry and Ted are popular and have it all. Naturally, they get married. This breaks the heart of Paul, who is in love with Jerry. Long story short, Paul causes an accident, which disfigures Dorothy, whom he marries out of guilt. Flash forward. Ted is unfaithful, so Jerry leaves him and rejoins the party life while Ted joins misery. Jerry finds Paul, who still wants her. However, she has to rethink her behavior when she meets Dorothy.

What I like about this movie is the idea. I love the redemption theme. Jerry has it all, but then finds she doesn’t, as often happens. After a life of partying and perfection, then perhaps vengeance for her own losses she at last faces the consequences of her actions. It gives her the opportunity to reflect and mend. Her focus shifts from other people’s effect on herself to her effect on other people. How therapeutic. How human.

It is this human element that attracts me to this movie more than anything. I haven’t seen it, so if there is no growth, don’t tell me. However, it’s a classic, so I’m assuming someone in the movie shows growth. It’s that crucial element of a good story.  It’s an interesting take on the American culture and worldview- and that, my friends, takes a lot of courage. So, I encourage and challenge you to give this one a try.

Brandie’s choice: The Divorcee (1930)

I’m going to jump in here and piggyback off of Carrie’s choice, because I have seen this movie, and I want to echo her recommendation. I love The Divorcee dearly. This is an AMAZING pre-Code film, full of all of the fire and liberal feminine sexuality that Hays and his cronies so desperately feared in the 1930s. It tries to address a double standard during an era which frowned upon the very notion of questioning the status quo, and though the movie’s ending (no details) is somewhat of a cop-out on that stance (at least, in my opinion), it’s a very enjoyable film nonetheless.

Norma Shearer is positively brilliant in the leading role, and at the time, her performance was a revelation–no one thought Norma Shearer, of all people, could play this role … not even her own husband, influential MGM producer Irving G. Thalberg. To prove him wrong, she commissioned a set of sexy boudoir photos for Thalberg, which ultimately convinced him that she was perfect for the part. And perfect she was–this movie ushered in a more sophisticated and worldly era in her career. And she won an Oscar for it!

Interesting tidbit: Joan Crawford might disagree that Shearer was “perfect” in this role, since the part of Jerry was, by some accounts, promised to her before Shearer went after it! In fact, some sources say Crawford was bitter about this for years. Crawford had been rivaling Shearer for roles and screen time at MGM for years, and she resented Shearer’s relationship with Thalberg, which she felt gave Shearer an unfair advantage. When Thalberg and Shearer became engaged, Crawford reportedly said, “What chance do I have? She’s sleeping with the boss.” Of course, Crawford became a huge star in her own right in the ensuing years, but Norma and Joan never really became what you would call “bosom buddies.”

In short, let me reiterate: if you’ve never seen this movie, WATCH IT!

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