Edmund Goulding wrote and directed this movie, a straight dramatic role for Miss Carroll; except for one short scene in which she is giving testimony in court, she is a twitchy creature; in court she is magnificent. Everyone is very good in this melodramatic effort, shot in a moody, impressionistic style.
I think the issue with Miss Carroll's performance falls into two parts. She was not a strong dramatic actress, but someone more adept at light, musical-comedy parts. The other is that Goulding was, by reputation, one of those directors who showed each actor precisely how to play a part. Stronger actors like March, Mrs. Skipworth and even Hale, could fight him and make the roles their own. Miss Carroll could not.
The movie is of an Erda, a woman who drags a moral man to his doom, like Louise Brooks in PANDORA'S BOX or Marlene Dietrich in THE BLUE ANGEL. Miss Carroll here plays an unwitting, unwilling Erda, a role meant to grant her the audience's sympathy. She makes a good effort at it, but she is simply not up to the demands of the role in this otherwise noble experiment that almost works, in part because of her miscasting, in part because of what looks like a studio-mandated happy ending.