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Friends and Lovers (1931)

Passed | | Drama, Romance, War | 3 October 1931 (USA)
British Army Captain Geoff Roberts carries on an affair with Alva, the wife of the cruel Victor Sangrito. Sangrito, however, is well aware of the affair, as he uses his beautiful wife to ... See full summary »


Maurice Dekobra (novel) (as Maurice DeKobra), Wallace Smith (adaptation)


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Complete credited cast:
Adolphe Menjou ... Captain Geoffrey Roberts
Lili Damita ... Alva Sangrito
Laurence Olivier ... Lieutenant Ned Nichols
Erich von Stroheim ... Victor Sangrito
Hugh Herbert ... McNellis
Frederick Kerr ... General Thomas Armstrong (as Frederic Kerr)
Blanche Friderici ... Lady Allice
Vadim Uraneff Vadim Uraneff ... Ivanoff
Jean Del Val ... Marquis Henri de Pézanne


British Army Captain Geoff Roberts carries on an affair with Alva, the wife of the cruel Victor Sangrito. Sangrito, however, is well aware of the affair, as he uses his beautiful wife to lure men into romance with her, then blackmailing them to save their careers. When Roberts falls into Sangrito's trap, he pays the blackmail and leaves for India, hoping to forget Alva, whom he loved, but now believes betrayed him. After some time in India, he is joined by his young friend and bosom companion Lieutenant Ned Nichols. Nichols, too, is in love with the same woman back in England. Though the two friends nearly come to blows over Alva, they eventually realize that she has been false to them both, and that their friendship far outweighs their feelings for a mendacious woman. But when the two are invalided home, they encounter Alva again, and learn that she may not have betrayed them after all. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


DAMITA...TEMPTRESS...DECOY...ALL WOMAN! (original half-sheet poster-all caps) See more »


Drama | Romance | War


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

3 October 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Wine in the Blood See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The five thousand pounds sterling blackmail would equal about twenty-two thousand six hundred eighty U.S. dollars at the time, or approximately three hundred fifty thousand U.S. dollars in 2017. See more »


[first lines]
Captain Geoffrey 'Geoff' Roberts: I suppose you will hate me... now.
Mrs. Alva Sangrito: Hate you? I love you more than ever.
[He takes her hand as they gaze into each other's eyes]
See more »


Referenced in Three's Company: Friends and Lovers: Part 2 (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

Condensed Pre-Code Viewing is MmmHmm Good!
22 September 2010 | by oceanchickSee all my reviews

Though I don't rate Friends and Lovers (1931) high based on my harsh rating scale, I give credit where it is due. Friends and Lovers is a perfect example of how I feel films should have been made in the early 30s---condensed. (This comment/review, however, will not be.) The film, including titles, is 68 minutes long, yet it tells an engaging cohesive story with several locations, people, costumes, events, passage of time and action without weighing it down with the fluff that movies were full of during that period. By fluff I include but am not limited to: extended reaction shots, excessive beauty shots, far off stares (see Greta's films), eyebrow movement shots (see Norma's films), mouth and lips parting shots (see Irene's films), unnecessary walking, unrelated dialog extending screen time for the stars, etc. Yes, this movie does have a few gratuitous fluffs but it doesn't tack on an entire hour showing them. The movie doesn't feel "glossy"; instead, somehow, it feels real.

The studio was unstable bankrupt great depression era Selznick helmed RKO. Director Victor Schertzinger, who had been in film since the first moving frame, pulled poignant performances from his cast and provided the music. DP J. Roy Hunt strapped to RKO through all of its phases provided believable lighting for B/W film through many types of scenes both indoors and out, as well as smooth camera movement and action. Adolphe Menjou survived the silent years to give a decent performance as obsessed, possessed, ardently pining Geoff, Larry Olivier makes his stiff and subtle Hollywood debut in a fair size role as Ned, Lili Damita also from the silent era wasn't a blazing beauty or brilliant actress but she did her part allowing her accent and body to do the rest as Alva, Erich Von Stroheim though a little cheesy made being a sadistic and evil porcelain collector seem lucrative and fun as Victor, and Hugh Herbert as McNellis, trying not to trip over his on and off again accent, bounced through the film offering humor here and there to keep the viewer's emotions connected.

Film making is all about taking the viewer in, cold from the street with their own world in their mind, connecting with their emotions and transporting them to another place and time, taking them on an emotional roller coaster ride until the film is through. If at any time the coaster slows or stops, the viewer has time to realize themselves again, even if only subconsciously, and the film has lost them. If picked up again, the viewer must start over emotionally with the story. Condensing this film down to 68 minutes keeps the viewer's attention the entire time. The overall ride may be short, the sets may be cheap, the acting may not be the best, the plot may be thin, the music may be shallow, the dialog may be simple, but tell a story that efficiently and the viewer doesn't notice while watching. Should the viewer notice, it's not considered long because the next sequence is already speeding along with fresh new things for the brain to process. Plot of the film is simple on the surface though it has a few morality testing twists and turns. For what they had to work with, the plot was kept clean and cohesive, the shots were tight, the camera action was appropriate, the cinematography and lighting was believable, the sets weren't spectacular but scenes didn't last long enough to pick them apart, the tension was there, the emotion was heavy, the beauty was shown, the dialog was believable and the actors sizzled.

So much happens at a comfortable pace that I never once got bored or thought about anything else other than the film. I ignored a ringing phone. I ignored portable electronics. The film was paced so well that I didn't want to look away. I was completely surprised by how enjoyable the film was to watch, unlike so many pre-code early 30s films I have suffered through. (I'm an elitist film snob, so I will watch a terrible film just so I can say w/o any doubt I hated it.) If there is so much fluff in a film that I sit there and start counting how many steps the actress is making across every single room, on every single street, up every single stair and then start counting their stares, far off looks, exaggerated baby spot lit soft shots, and on top of it listen to senseless dialog that does nothing to forward the plot but included just so that the actress/actor is getting a certain percentage of screen time, I feel I'd rather have a root canal without anesthetic rather than sit through the rest of the film. For me to sit through an entire early 30s film without moving or thinking of anything else means the film is very special in some way.

In retrospect, I wonder: the novelty of the talking pictures was new, but it does make me wonder if viewers really loved the long lingering shots of the starlets or if they tolerated them. Did they expect them because they were paying money to be visually entertained? Does length equal value? According to rumor, the film lost $260k at the box office, though IMDBpro, AFI, or BFI don't offer any budget or salary info. Perhaps Friends and Lovers was shot with the same early 30s heavy fluff monkey on its back but given to a gifted editor that said NO to fluff. Regardless, this is a very rare 68 minutes that I was happy watching a pre-code film, and for anyone like me who barely tolerates movies of the early 30s because of the unnecessary fluff, give this one a watch. It's not the best film in the world, but 68 minutes isn't long in comparison to 2 hours of Norma's eyebrows going up and down.

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