Kay Francis … Claire Landin / Miss Claire King
Pat O’Brien … William ‘Bill’ / ‘Willie’ Landin
Ralph Forbes … Martin Brush
Melville Cooper … Leslie Mainwaring
Thurston Hall … Claudius King
Grant Mitchell … Franklin Snell
Gordon Oliver … Howard Johns
John Eldredge … Charles Braden
Herbert Rawlinson … Avery Flickner
Hugh O’Connell … George Dunlap
Georgia Caine … Mrs. Amelia Brush
Joyce Compton … Miss Hall, Frazier’s Secretary
Sarah Edwards … Mrs. Hattie Snell
Josephine Whittell … Miss Douglas, Leslie’s Secretary
Loia Cheaney … Miss Perkins – Bill’s Secretary
Directed by Stanley Logan.
Produced by Robert Lord.
From the Albert Carr story “Return From Limbo.”
Original Music by Heinz Roemheld.
Cinematography by Sidney Hickox.
Film Editing by Thomas Richards.
Art Direction by Max Parker.
Costume Design by Orry-Kelly.
Sound Recording by Stanley Jones.
Musical Direction by Leo F. Forbstein.
Released April 23, 1938.
A First National Picture.
Box Office Information:
Cost of Production: $403,000
Domestic Gross: $315,000
Foreign Gross: $117,000
Total Gross: $432,000
See the Box Office Page for more info.
Women Are Like That (1938) is a noteworthy film in the career of Kay Francis. Noteworthy not because of any spectacular script, direction, or acting, but because it was filming during Kay’s very public legal battle with Warner Brothers for the cancellation of her contract.
The box office failure of First Lady (1937) left critics, audiences, and studio heads scratching their heads. Had Kay Francis peaked? Is it only downhill from here? Women Are Like That answered that question. Yes.
That same year First Lady was released Kay had been voted the sixth most popular female movie star in the entire movie industry. She was the only actress from Warner Brothers, who, yes, had Bette Davis, to make it to the top box office charts. On top of that her $5,250 weekly salary was the highest of any Hollywood star, and according to the movie magazines, she deserved it.
Around that time, however, Kay had begun to be more picky about her scripts, unusual since she had not previously paid attention to such matters in the past. Warner Brothers had enough problems from Bette Davis, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson. In their opinion, they didn’t need it from Kay Francis, too. So when she filed lawsuit against them on September 4, 1937, they were ready for a legal war (read this section of my Kay Francis biography for more information about the lawsuit).
Since Kay was still a movie favorite, Women Are Like That did have production value in terms of cost, but the rest of the movie was empty. Pat O’Brien, who had great chemistry with Kay, was selected as her leading man and he helps make the film—and Kay—funnier than First Lady altogether, but the critics were not to entirely pleased. Variety, the same magazine which hailed Kay for her popularity, called it “another disappointment for Kay Francis.” The audiences agreed with the critics, too.
“The fans expect sincerity from me,” Kay Francis told an interviewer, “a certain warmth and sympatica. And if they don’t get it, they howl.”
This movie opens up at the wedding of Claire King and Martin Brush. The guests eagerly await Claire’s entrance to the ceremony, only to find out that she has taken off with Bill Landin, planning to elope, leaving Martin at the altar.
A year off marriage bliss goes by. The two throw a party to celebrate their anniversary, and Bill learns that Claire’s father, Claudius, is leaving his stock shares from his own advertising firm to Bill. Unfortunately, the company has fallen on tough times, and Bill feels it is best to leave the firm himself, though not entirely. He sells all of his shares, and remains under the complete control of Martin.
One promise that Bill makes Martin swear to is that Claire never find out that Bill has given up his shares in the firm.
The deterioration of his career in advertising has Bill uneasy. He begins to get a little testy toward Clarie when she tries to help him with his Bell Angel beauty campaign. Bill throws all the plans away, deciding to give up on the idea, though he worked so hardly on it. Claire takes matters into her own hands, and gets the deal pushed through.
It’s a deal which saves the firm, but ultimately ruins her marriage. Bill’s ego takes a major blow, knowing that his wife had to come in and save them from financial ruin. With this, he decides to leave her.
Claire carries on with her firm. She and Martin are now business partners, gaining countless successes and new clients, all while Bill travels the world drinking recklessly in each corner of the Earth he visits. While he is in a hotel in New York City, he overhears a conference going on, one in which—ironically—Claire is about to get up and address a speech to professional women about her knowledge of the modern career girl’s lifestyle.
Using the “this is my friend’s experience” disguise, she tells her story of her failed marriage to Bill, knowing he is in the room. At the end of the speech he makes a snarling comment to her before stumbling out of the room. Determined to get back at her, he decides to beat her at her own game.
Bill gets into his own advertising firm, taking all of Claire’s and Martin’s best clients from them, which causes Claire to throw a party for the last one that they have, Mr. Franklin Snell, back at her apartment.
Franklin Snell, and his wife and children, are fatter, dull people used obviously for comic relief. Of course the wife has to be a major prude, and when Bill goes to their apartment while Franklin is at Claire’s, he talks her into going to the cocktail party to see exactly what these New York gatherings are really like.
Shocked by the swing music and dancing girls, Mrs. Snell asks to know where he husband is. One of the girls responds that he is “in the bedroom with our charming hostess.” The look on her face is priceless comedy.
Mrs. Snell and Bill enter the bedroom, where Claire has Franklin liquored up, trying to see if he will get drunk enough to accept the offer she and Martin have put together. Unfortunately, Mrs. Snell drags him out of the room, and she looses the last great client she had.
Losing everything to Bill, she decides to call it quits.
It is only now that Bill comes to realize how much he still loves Claire, though she wants nothing to do with him. She wants a divorce so she can marry Martin, but while at the attorney’s office, Bill sweetens enough to the point where she agrees to dance with him. Martin catches what’s going on, and storms out. When the lawyer walks in, Claire and Bill are on the couch making out.
“Mrs. Landin…Mr. Landin…your divorce? What in the world is this?”
“This is lovely,” says Claire, before she goes back into a passionate kiss with Bill.
Though it does have some dull parts to it, I actually like this movie. Kay and Pat O’Brien play off of each other with a great comic and romantic chemistry. The scene where he is depressed over his selling of the stocks with the firm, and shocked by her sneaking up on him in a white dress cracks me up. “Say, what are you doing walking around in that white gown? Trying to haunt the apartment?” It’s great.
The second piece of memorable comedy comes at the party, when Mrs. Snell hears that he husband is “in the bedroom with our charming hostess.” The look on her face makes this movie for me. There are little bits, too; such as when Kay turns around and smacks the beautician right across the face.
And the final scene of Kay and Pat O’Brien making out really takes one for a surprise, too. One expects a passionate kiss, maybe, but she and O’Brien seem to really be into each other, almost like Kay rushed out that “this is lovely” line to get her lips back on O’Brien’s.
Other than that, there isn’t much Women Are Like That has to offer.
Kay and Pat do good with their parts. Fitted perfectly to their screen personas, the only real departure here is for Ralph Forbes as Martin. I’ve seen him in many movies, but in this one he is actually alive. This is the most active I have seen him since Private Lives (1931, with Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery). In all of his other movies he seems to blend into the background, but here he is front and center with Kay and Pat, though he is billed after the title.
This was the third of four movies Stanley Logan directed. His first was First Lady (1937), the box office bomb which brought an end to Kay’s top-liner days. He seems to have progressed slightly here, but his work is still stale. Again, he doesn’t make the action as lively as it could have been. Everyone loves a good battle of the sexes, but this one just can’t seem to make up its mind.
While the sets and gowns Kay wear seem to be first-rate, one gets the feeling of a downsizing that Warner Brothers was underway with. She had run her course, in their minds, and Women Are Like That is her beginning of a down-hill spiral at the studio. The film was produced on a tighter budget than First Lady, and her subsequent films were made more cheaply and quickly then its follower.
As the saying goes, what goes up must come down. Unfortunately, that phrase applies to our Hollywood favorites, too.
Women Are Like That, taken from Albert H.Z. Carr’s Return From Limbo was the second and last time a Carr story was brought to the screen. The other Carr story filmed was Let’s Get Married (1937), a Columbia film directed by Alfred E. Green and starring Ida Lupino.
Director Stanley Logan spent most of his career as a dialogue director at Warner Brothers. Though he only directed four movies, his credits for dialogue include Captain Blood (1935), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Confession (1937), and My Son, My Son! (1940), the last was a film in which Kay had tested for the lead part, she lost to Madeleine Carroll.
Kay’s first and only movie with Pat O’Brien. Her second with Ralph Forbes.
The Warners, whose vigilant programmers never stray far from the purse of the public, have taken cognizance of the current demand for revelatory cinema material by presenting at the Strand a definitive work called “Women Are Like That.” Although it is not exactly of the genre of the controversial “The Birth of a Baby,” is represents a courageous attempt to explain in the protracted seventy-odd minutes at its disposal certain aspects of a human problem which has baffled philosophers through the ages.
With Kay Francis as its case in point, the picture invites study of the plight of an attractive young matron who tries to save her husband’s failing advertising agency, meets with one immediate success, and is frightfully abused for her meddling. The husband, played with furrowed brow and a taste of double Scotches by Pat O’Brien, deserts his spouse for a year and returns only to join a rival advertising firm and ruin the agency his wife has been trying to carry on for him. Some phases of this elementary conflict, unquestionably of Freudian significance, have been obscured by the dialogue. There was a line, “If you were an oyster, I could eat you—preferably with Tabasco!” which puzzles me considerably at the time. Still one must not be too critical of a scholarly work.
Eventually we must perforce omit a few scientific phases of the treatise, the wife and husband are found in an attorney’s office, waiting for their divorce papers. With a brilliant sense of the nuances of the situation and a full appreciation of the heroine’s womanly complexities, the Warners permit the husband to resolve the crisis by expressing a prose equivalent of the popular song, “Thanks for the Memory.” The chords of romance bring struck by recollections of spaghetti dinners and such, the wife folds into his arms and says “This is wovewy.” (She should have said “Lovely,” of course, but you know how Miss Fwancis speaks.)
This, with one dramatic stroke, the Warners have cut the Gordian knot, boldly phrased the truth and left a striking commentary for the future. The picture has an unmistakably stirring quality, which must be communicated to its audience. There is only I must as the authors of “Women Are Like That.” That is, “Like what?”
Published April 11, 1938 in the New York Times.