Plot: Bill (Grant Withers) is a railroad man who has a lot of charm, but not much ambition, at least when it comes to work. He loves the ladies, the booze, and handing out a little chew, but is almost always in one kind of trouble or another. His best friend Jack (Regis Toomey) is his polar opposite, a responsible and upward worker who has settled down with a domestic life and a beautiful wife, Lily (Mary Astor). After he finds his friend falling down drunk, Jack hauls Bill back to his house to sleep it off, but that proves to be a big mistake. When Jack steps out to pick up some groceries, Bill falls for Lily and she seems to reciprocate, so some passionate kisses follow. But what will happen if Jack discovers the affair between his wife and his best friend?
Entertainment Value: A pre-code melodrama about a doomed love triangle, Other Men’s Women has some terrific character development, a great cast, and some stunning visual design elements. The movie has some fantastic set pieces that revolve around trains, with the crown jewel being Jack’s desperate dash through the train yard, complete with heavy, atmospheric rain. That sequence is a sight to behold and adds a nice punch to the finale, but it also puts an exclamation mark on the film’s bleak mood, so it feels organic to the experience. While the movie focuses more on the Bill, Jack, and Lily aspect, I think one of the film’s best threads is between Bill and Marie, played by Joan Blondell. Her performance is excellent and she is able to convey immense depth and emotion, even with such limited screen time. She also turns in one of the most believable, memorable drunk scenes ever. The overall narrative is interesting and keeps you reeled in, but it does lean hard on the melodrama at times, especially toward the conclusion in regard to Jack’s presence. I can see why some would find that element a little forced, but I think it works well enough. A melodrama is bound to get melodramatic, after all and I don’t think it is ever pushed too hard.
The cast of Other Men’s Women is rock solid, though I do think the supporting cast steals the show from the leads. Grant Withers has the central role and is likable, despite his roguish ways and he shows ample charm and presence here. He is best suited for the lighter moments however, as his charm and humor seem to be his strength, while he struggles in a bit in more dramatic waters. But most of his performance is geared around his comic skills, so it all works out. Mary Astor has incredible presence as always, but isn’t given much to do in this one. She does well with what little she is given, but she winds up outshone by her costars. Regis Toomey rounds out the love triangle and he turns in a solid, melodramatic performance. While those three are more than capable, it is Joan Blondell and James Cagney who wind up being the most memorable. Blondell is simply magical here and while she has only a couple of scenes, she really shines and steals the show. Other Men’s Women might be a little too melodramatic and forced for some, but I had a great time with the movie and for fans of pre-code cinema or classic movies in general, it is highly recommended.