Plot: Geoffrey (George Brent) and his wife Linda (Ruth Chatterton) have enjoyed a life of comfort and luxuries, thanks to the stock market chase. The world of stocks and bonds is a dangerous one, with potential disaster with each new deal brokered, but Geoffrey is able to keep ahead of the curve. While he has a fairly keen mind, his success is also due in large part to Linda, who secures insider information. Her methods of procurement aren’t ones that every husband would approve of, but both want the good life and see it as a necessary sacrifice. But when the market bottoms out and the couple loses it all, it sparks a divide that shakes the marriage to its core. While Geoffrey tries to rebuild his fortune to lure Linda back into his arms, she pursues the fast lane life with various men, sometimes sending funds home from her generous benefactors. What will become of this unusual couple, even if hard times turn around?
Entertainment Value: The Crash is one wild ride and even pre-code veterans should buckle up, as this sizzler is an eye opener, to say the least. The premise alone is a stunner and a half, but the dialogue and performances ramp up the heat throughout, giving us an unforgettable slice of cinema. The movie runs under an hour, but packs in a full story and never feels rushed, thanks to a brisk pace and no filler, this is all lightning bolts right from the start. Even by pre-code standards, The Crash is bold and the story is told in direct fashion, populated by unpretentious characters. These folks might have sharp, incisive lines, but they aren’t over the top or overly melodramatic, which makes the dark side even more intense. This kind of dysfunctional relationship being explored in such open, relentless fashion would open eyes now, let alone in the 30s, so The Crash is quite a head turner. As the movie rolls on, you might wait for the moral to be delivered or some kind of light of hope, but it never comes and the finale is rather twisted, which is in line with the overall experience here. I also like the movie’s visuals and William Dieterle’s direction is on point as well, so The Crash is well recommended, especially to fans of pre-code and classic cinema in general.
Our bizarre couple is brought to life by Ruth Chatterton and George Brent, who also happened to be married in real life when starring The Crash. Chatterton was a pre-code queen and this kind of role was one she was experienced with, so she knocks it out of the park and then some. The character lets her vamp and dial up her presence a little, which she does with great skill. I like that her character is so wild, but she is able to keep the right balance and not go full melodrama, which helps keeps the impact of the darker moments strong. Chatterton shines the brightest here, but Brent is also quite good and has a difficult character to work with. The two have a unique dynamic and this kind of screen couple couldn’t have been easy to pull off, but both Chatterton and Brent were more than up to the task. The cast also includes Lois Wilson, Helen Vinson, Barbara Leonard, and Elspeth Dudgeon.