Plot: Deanna (Lil Dagover) hasn’t seen her husband in months, but when his ship the Lafayette is due to return to port, she is excited for a romantic reunion. As it turns out, the visit won’t be a typical one, as her husband Commandant Corlaix (Walter Huston) has ordered that the men remain on board, though they can have guests on the ship, so the night will still be a memorable one. But Deanna is told that Corlaix is consumed with looming war concerns, a message relayed by Lieutenant d’Ortelles (Warren William) and she is surprised to see him, as he had promised to transfer from the ship. The two had engaged in an affair in the past and while d’Ortelles respects Deanna, he also wishes to remain under Corlaix’s command. As she awaits her husband’s attention, Deanna grows anxious and after being pushed aside time and again, will she remain patient or will her past resurface?
Entertainment Value: There’s a lot going on in this pre-code drama, as we have romance, infidelity, courtroom thrills, and even all out war, the latter of which includes some fun miniatures. The reaction to The Woman from Monte Carlo wasn’t great at the time, which makes sense, as the movie can feel a little slow and the experience isn’t that memorable. But not every movie needs to be an epic classic and to me, there’s a lot to like with this one. The story is pure pre-code, with open references to an unfaithful marriage and Lil Dagover’s character’s past discussed frankly, but with a sensitive, not as judgmental as expected tone. That leads to some awkward moments, when her husband talks to her former lover about her past, but that is the kind of exchange that stands out, to be sure. I also found the war scenes to be of interest, as I have an appreciation for miniature work special effects and while dated of course, I think the tiny ship battle adds some fun to the movie. I found this to be a solid drama and sometimes, that can be enough to entertain.
As you might expect since her name is larger than the actual film title on the poster, Lil Dagover has the lead role in The Woman from Monte Carlo. I have to be honest, I had trouble at times understanding her, but her performance is solid and she handles the material well. Her character is not a simple one, so she is given some depth to work with and she puts it good use. Of course, the movie runs only 70 minutes, so the depth is relative, but the script at least tries to include some backstory and development, which Dagover then puts into action. I was drawn to this movie for Warren William however, who has a softer than usual presence here. You can tell William is still coming into his own as a performer at this point, but he is more than competent and has good chemistry with Dagover. The cast also includes Walter Huston, Clarence Muse, George E. Stone, and Robert Warwick.