Early talking pictures are absolutely fun to watch. You get to see  evolving processes and talent.  One can see the camera move away from locked framing similar to theatrical stage play to actors gradually finding their feet and voices.  Movements become  less  stilted,  voices  become less histrionic as the medium grows.   Story also evolves with  more  depth as  the early pictures were often taken from bestsellers. I wish for more of those today.  Such is the case of the  M.G M. production THEIR OWN DESIRE (1929), with Norma Shearer.



Truly, there is nothing remarkable about this picture as it is a  variation of  a  role Norma Shearer played for years. only getting more provocative in style. I find her, even if she is an icon of  the  movies, looking odd on camera with the ill advised hair style. That was  the style those days, yet she  doesn’t photograph as wellas  early Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Loretta Young,  Colleen Moore,  Mae Murray and  others.   Irving Thalberg (production chief at MGM) played  a part in her career,  just like Marion  Davies and  William Randolph Hearst creating intrigue at the  studio. No doubt Norma Shearer  has  talent. I believe it comes  to fruition in the George Cukor directed THE WOMEN (1939) . She did have to play opposite Joan Crawford and others:  that elevated  the game.    Mind  you, Joan Crawford and others were stuck in the roles of the dancer or the girl gone bad. Such was movie making at that time.

Story wise,  THEIR OWN DESIRE (1929)  does give an interesting take on marriage and adultery from the twenties point of  view with the father,  Henry Marlett (Lewis  Stone) having an affair with Beth Cheever (Helene Millard).   This  turn of  events is a  disaster  for  the  daughter  played  by Lucia ‘Lally’ Marlett (Norma Shearer) as she resents the treatment of her mother, Harriet Marlett (Belle Bennett).  Enter newcomer Robert Montgomery as John Douglas Cheever, the son who gradually sweeps  Lally off her feet before the water sweeps both away.  Beth even  tries  to commit  suicide as a  result of the shame of the  affair.  Father  also comes close to hitting his daughter when she criticizes him for his  actions,  but he is  stopped  by  the line, “If you were not a  girl,” which is  unpleasant to see.

It was good to see a  younger  Lewis Stone looking trim and playing polo (all the rage in the  film colony at that time).  This was long before he  got put in the roles of  judges and fathers, when he still was able to do the range,  even as a cowboy in the original THREE GODFATHERS  (1936).   Robert Montgomery is the fresh face, having been  hand picked by Shearer for the role. He is  youthful and happy as only Montgomery can be before he  became the tough-as-nails  private  eyes as well as directing and producing.

Director E. Mason Hopper, who was  actually a silent film director, does a  good  job with the polo action,  swimming  sequences and boating  scenes.  The  storm is well  handled for the day even if  the   sets look a little more  studio it should have been.  The  dialogue sequences  are  well executed with  moving camera on the  outside moments after the polo match to  good  intimacy in the room scenes. The picture also featured  the popular song Blue is the Night.


Why I said THEIR OWN DESIRE (1929) was not remarkable because it  levels with the  other pictures of the day on this subject.  The  script was penned by Francis Marion and others in apparently two versions, one  with sound and one with title cards for those theaters not equipped for  sound.  THE  DIVORCEE (1931) will be  a  superior  film in style, attitude and acting. You could not get there before  going through the motions with  films like THEIR OWN DESIRE(1929).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: