Story: Lucy (Gloria Stuart) has been enjoying an affair with someone other than her husband, to the point she has a glow about her that even her husband Walter (Paul Lukas) has noticed. After some suspicions, he manages to catch her in front of a mirror, about to disrobe with that glow evident, which pushes him over the brink. Walter pulls a gun and shoots his own wife, filled with envious rage and quickly reaches out to his lawyer, Paul (Frank Morgan). Not only his attorney and a good friend, Paul can also relate to Walter’s situation, as he suspects his own wife has been unfaithful. Can he separate his own personal problems from his work inside the courtroom and if Walter’s claim that love led him to kill is upheld, what might Paul do in the wake of the verdict?
Entertainment Value: I was more than pleased with The Kiss Before the Mirror, as it surpassed my expectations and left quite an impression. The narrative seems well tread these days, but the idea of infidelity open discussed wasn’t that common at the time, especially in regard to the unfaithful wife glowing from her dalliances. The movie doesn’t excuse her cheating, but it also doesn’t judge and never suggests the the murder was justified, in fact the film not only condemns the idea, but lets us see how the relationships likely wound up in peril in the first place. This is all quite remarkable, even for the pre-code era, which was so much more progressive than the eras before and after. How the story shifts to follow the jealous lawyer is well executed and the courtroom scenes are powerful, showing us the evil that can lurk in some men, as The Shadow might paraphrase. I found the conclusion to be acceptable, but I would have liked a firmer, even harsher treatment of the abusive men. Overall however, this is a fine picture that I will definitely revisit and highly recommend.
The film has some great performances, as while the material melodramatic in tone at times, the cast doesn’t go too far into that arena here. Frank Morgan booms his performance in some scenes though, especially the dialed up courtroom sequence where he uses his platform to threaten his own wife during his trial statements. That scene is still powerful, even if Morgan does tune up the melodrama a little, but if there was a time to do that, this scene was it. Most of Morgan’s effort is more natural and he has a good banter with most of his costars, I think. He is able to make you loathe him from the jump and that is a crucial trait here, given the nature of his character. Nancy Carroll is memorable as the lawyer’s wife and while her role is a small one, she makes each count. Her facial expressions and reactions are excellent and she adds a lot to this production. The cast also includes Walter Pidgeon, Jean Dixon, Paul Lukas, and Gloria Stuart.