We've all had to sit through those tedious sexual harassment videos at work – bland, patronizing productions that are required viewing for all new employees. Companies could make the experience a whole lot more fun if they just showed this film instead.
Moustache-sporting Fredric March is wealthy CEO Jerry Stafford, a debonair gadabout who secretly pines for his cute and unattached secretary Julie Traynor (Claudette Colbert). Not so secretly, actually – within the first ten minutes Stafford hits on Julie with abandon and then steals a kiss which leaves her flustered. He brushes it off with a "I was surprised just as much as you were" (though a careful reviewing of the scene confirms that he wasn't surprised at all), then pops open the wine – they're having lunch in his office, natch – and asks her to go on a cruise around the world with him. Safe to say, this guy would be in white collar prison these days. Even better, a few scenes later Julie marries her low-incomed broker of a fiancé (Philip Craig, as played by the Pee Wee Herman-looking Monroe Owsley); she reports to work the following Monday to tell Stafford she won't go on that cruise with him after all, on account of marriage. Stafford's response? He fires her!
I should mention here that Jerry Stafford is the hero of this film. Yes, we're certainly in the world of 1930s cinema.
Stafford doesn't turn out to be the biggest cad. That would be Craig, who by his and Julie's first anniversary has become wealthy, due mostly to the money Stafford has given his brokerage firm. Craig loses all of his newfound wealth on a silk deal Stafford cautioned against. Only problem is, Craig used some of Stafford's money as well
without telling him. Destitute, Julie goes to Stafford and asks for money, offering herself in exchange. Here the movie becomes like the 1930 version of "The Cheat" (available on the Pre-Code Hollywood DVD set), with foul play, accidental shootings, and exonerations. Only in this movie no one gets branded.
This was the second of four on screen pairings for Colbert and March. The following year they reunited for DeMille's "Sign of the Cross" and, a month after that, for Mitchell Leisen's "Tonight Is Ours" (filmed in late '32 but released in January '33 – and ostensibly credited to director Stuart Walker, who according to all and sundry did nothing). I enjoy these two together, though apparently Colbert didn't; March was notorious for getting a bit too "familiar" with his leading ladies. Colbert reportedly disliked the man – there are stories of March wandering around "in a daze" on the set of "Sign of the Cross," he was so nuts about her.
Overall, a predictable melodrama that's most memorable for its (nowadays) jawdropping displays of sexual harassment in the workplace and the fact that it features three celebrities (Colbert, March, and a twenty one year-old Ginger Rogers) on the brink of their still-enduring fame. Dorothy Arzner's directorial work is okay, but nothing incredible -- the camera's static most times and, other than a solemn scene of Claudette walking up a hauntingly-lit staircase toward the end of the film, there aren't many novel shots. Arzner's work was much better in her subsequent film with March, "Merrily We Go To Hell" (also included on the Pre-Code Hollywood DVD set).