NICE WOMEN. Universal, 1931. Sidney Fox, Russell Gleason, Frances Dee, Alan Mowbray, Carmel Myers. Screenplay: Edwin H. Knopf, from a play by William H. Grew. Photography: Charles Stumar. Director: Edwin H. Knopf. Shown at Cinecon 40, Hollywood CA, September 2004.


   Some wit on the convention committee had the inspired idea of scheduling this acid-tinged drama to follow the warmth of Sidney Franklin’s The Hoodlum (reviewed here ).

   Sidney Fox is pressured by her family into accepting the marriage proposal of her father’s boss (Alan Mowbray), scuttling her plan to marry her true love (Russell Gleason). Frances Dee gives a splendid performance as the younger sister who coolly destroys her sister’s hopes for happiness, then flirts with her soon-to-be brother-in-law, further complicating the already impossible situation.

   Mowbray, who initially appears to be a man with nothing but his business and his fiancee on his mind, has a skeleton in the closet, a girlfriend (Carmel Myers) who doesn’t want to lose her sugar daddy.

   Mowbray is surprisingly cast as a romantic lead but he negotiates the tricky shoals with great skill, besieged on all sides by the “nice women” in his life. If it weren’t for the bite in the script and performances, this would be a forgettable soap.

   But even with a happy ending that finally takes the teeth (fangs?) out of the drama, it’s still an engrossing pre-Code sexual drama of dysfunctional relationships.