Spending Time With Turner Classic Movies: THE CRASH (1932)

This summer has been so chocked full of things to do that I have been remiss about posting about some of the films that I have seen.  I did manage to watch three films from my list (Ten Films for 2015) including MILDRED PIERCE and YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, but I haven’t been able to sit down and blog the way I would like to.  So allow me to remedy that by talking about THE CRASH from 1932, a recommendation from Kristina of Speakeasy.

In the later part of the 1920s, Linda Gault (Ruth Chatterton) uses her feminine charms to help get stock tips for her financier husband, Geoffrey (George Brent).  She carries on affairs with various men of power in the banking world and returns home with insider trading information.  Linda has decided to end her affair with one such banker, John Fair, seeming to grow tired of being used and abused in this way.  However Geoffrey has other plans and begs Linda to charm John once more at a party, hoping for more information about the state of the stock market.  Linda is hurt, feeling betrayed by Geoffrey’s cavalier use of her assets and his lack of concern for her.  Perhaps it is because of this that she is unable to fool John Fair into believing that she is still in love with him.  John refuses to part with any insider secrets but when Geoffrey asks Linda what she has learned she tells him a small lie that will destroy everything.

The market crashes soon after, causing Geoffrey and Linda to loose everything.  Linda has feared this event, having spent her childhood in deep poverty.  Not wishing to live in a manner other than that to which she has become accustomed, Linda convinces Geoffrey to allow her to go to Bermuda with a letter of credit.  She promises to return once Geoffrey regains his former wealth and glory.  This begins to take much longer than either of them expected and Linda becomes bored.  Never one to sit around at home, Linda soon meets Ronnie Sanderson (Paul Cavanagh) an honest-to-God Australian sheep rancher.

Linda and Ronnie begin spending a lot of time together and Ronnie falls in love with Linda.  He often asks her to come away with him but she refuses believing that Australia will be “boring”.  But that all changes when she finds out that Geoffrey has lost everything and her maid has stolen her pearl necklace.  Soon Linda must return to New York and to Geoffrey to not only get her necklace back, but to get a divorce as well.

This was an interesting little film for sure.  Being a pre-code it packs quite a bit into a very short run time and the story definitely moves.  Not too much time is spent building up character background but there is still a good sense of Ruth and Geoffrey’s relationship.  George Brent is quite good as the husband who clearly loves his wife but has no idea how to get the large amounts of money needed to keep her happy, aside from using her to get insider information.  He doesn’t want Ruth to leave him to go to Bermuda, fearing what will become of him once she is gone and not around to help him.  He loves her deeply, and surprisingly even though he has pushed Linda to have affairs in the past he never suspects her of having an affair on her own.

Ruth Chatterton is an interesting combination of fierceness and defeat.  She loves Geoffrey but is tired of using herself to get information.  She feels cheap and worthless being the mistress of so many men with nothing but encouragement from her husband.  The sense I got from her portrayal was that she is so hurt and saddened by Geoffrey’s continued encouragement of her affairs that she decides to lie simply to hurt him and perhaps dissuade him from future encouragement.  She lives her life after that moment in guilt, anger, and fear believing that since she was able to escape poverty once before by using her wiles that she must do so once again to regain what she has lost.

All in all this was an interesting an unique look at the effects of affairs and financial ruin on a marriage.  Thanks to Kristina for the suggestion!