MAN OF THE WORLD. Paramount Pictures, 1931. William Powell, Carole Lombard, Wynne Gibson, Lawrence Gray, Guy Kibbee, George Chandler. Directors: Richard Wallace & Edward Goodman (the latter uncredited).

   For a film with a script written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, Man of the World is overall surprisingly bland. That’s not to say that William Powell isn’t a fine actor or that Carole Lombard isn’t dazzling; it’s just that the movie just sort of plods along, without enough tension to keep the viewer fully engaged with the story. True, there’s a surprisingly (spoiler alert) downbeat ending and some rather seedy insinuations about American expatriate life in the City of Lights, but there’s just not enough verbal sparring, let along physical action, to make this programmer anything other than an average pre-Code melodrama.

   Powell portrays Michael Trevor, a former newspaperman living as an expatriate in Paris. He tells everyone he’s an aspiring novelist, but had his run of hard luck and is really part of a small blackmailing ring. They target Americans living and working in France. In order to keep their names out of a scandal sheet that Trevor’s associates run, wealthy Americans end up forking over money to Trevor as a means of guarding their reputations. Little do they know that Trevor himself is the leader of the blackmailers and not the white knight he presents himself to be.

   Things change for Trevor when he falls for the niece of one of his targets, the lovely Mary Kendall (Lombard). He’s then forced to choose between his loyalty to his criminal associates, one of whom is his ex-lover and for his true affection for Mary. Set in the backdrop of early 1930s Paris, Man of the World is neither particularly comic nor romantic. It’s more of a character study of a lonely man who, no matter where he goes, finds he can’t escape what his life has become.