Plot: Larry (Lewis Stone) is a publisher, but he didn’t have to look far for his latest story, as it takes place right at the office. Those in the workplace know about office wives all too well, the idea that secretaries are given more attention from their bosses than the men’s own wives. This leads to a good deal of marital woes and even breakups at times, so it is an interesting concept for a book. When his own secretary can’t handle him marrying another woman, Larry has to find a new assistant and soon enough, Anne (Dorothy Mackaill) is in the position. She is a skilled secretary capable of exceeding all the job’s expectations, but Larry admits he is drawn to her charms as well. As the two begin to work together, there is a romantic tension and Anne is jealous of Larry’s wife, while also growing discontent with her dull beau. How will things work out for Anne and she is doomed to be just another office wife?
Entertainment Value: This one is pure pre-code magic, with the kind of sizzle you’d expect and some terrific performances. The narrative is interesting, as it basically focuses on a woman’s attraction to her boss and his refined lifestyle, which leads to her wanting to dump her now boring boyfriend and break up her boss’ marriage, not the most wholesome concept. Of course, pre-code doesn’t judge and the movie has a light tone with a comedic slant. So while The Office Wife does touch on some serious social and relationship issues (many still relevant), this isn’t a deep, character driven look, more of a brisk, upbeat style homewrecker’s tale. The movie runs under an hour, so the pace is quick and there’s no downtime, as the film races to cover all the bases and wrap that ribbon on the finale. I don’t love how the movie ends, but it is about the characters, not me, so I can roll with that. I had fun with The Office Wife, as it has melodrama, a super brisk pace, and a wonderful cast, so if you’re a fan of pre-code cinema or classic cinema in general, this movie is well recommended.
This movie runs fast and has a super short duration, so it is more fueled by the cast than characters, given the limited time for development involved. Dorothy Mackaill is fun to watch in the lead here, in a bright and charismatic turn. The material doesn’t stress her to do all that much, but she brings a lot of charm and screen presence, as well as a sincere performance. So for what she is given to work with, I think Mackaill works some small wonders and despite some plot turns I didn’t care for, she is always likable and a welcome sight in this one. While Mackaill is a fun lead, Joan Blondell manages to steal the show, as she often does. Her role is a much smaller one, but she makes the most of her screen time. Blondell has several scenes that involve undressing and bathing to spice up the pre-code texture, but she also has her sharp comedic skills on showcase in this wonderful performance. The cast also includes Natalie Moorhead, Lewis Stone, and Blanche Friderici.
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