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Westward Passage (1932)

Passed | | Drama, Romance | 27 May 1932 (USA)
A struggling writer divorces his wife to pursue his career without interference, but they meet in Europe years later after she has remarried.


Robert Milton


Margaret Ayer Barnes (story), Bradley King (adaptation) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Ann Harding ... Olivia
Laurence Olivier ... Nick Allen
Zasu Pitts ... Mrs. Truesdale
Irving Pichel ... Harry Ottendorf
Juliette Compton ... Henrietta
Irene Purcell ... Baroness Diane von Stael
Emmett King Emmett King ... Mr. Henry Ottendorf
Florence Roberts ... Mrs. Ottendorf
Ethel Griffies ... Lady Caverly
Don Alvarado ... Count Felipe DeLatorie
Bonita Granville ... Little Olivia Allen (age 10)
Florence Lake ... Elmer's Wife
Edgar Kennedy ... Elmer
Herman Bing ... Otto Hoopengarner - the Dutchman


Struggling writer Nick Allen and socialite Olivia Van Tyne marry and live frugally because Nick refuses to compromise his writing to satisfy his publisher. However, when they have an unwanted child, he does become a "hack" writer to feed the baby, little Olivia, and he resents it. Three years later, little Olivia interferes too much in his work, so he finds his own apartment and eventually divorces Olivia, who then marries gentle and kindly Harry Ottendorf. Not seeing each other for six more years, Olivia and Nick accidentally meet in Lucerne, Switzerland, while she, Harry and little Olivia are on vacation, and Nick, now a famous author, is on tour promoting his new book. When Harry has to go back to the States on business, Nick tries to rekindle Olivia's flickering love, but she repels him. Later, Olivia finds that Nick has also booked a room on the ship going home so they can take the westward passage together. Olivia is torn between her loyalty to Harry and her burgeoning love for ... Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »





English | French | German

Release Date:

27 May 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Divorcio por amor See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Pathé Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Theatrical movie debut of Bonita Granville (Little Olivia Allen (age 10)). See more »


Nick's telegram congratulating Olivia and Harry on their marriage is dated May 10 1928. Later scenes are supposed to take place six years later, despite the film having been released in 1932. See more »


Olivia: Oh, this is heavenly, Nick!
Nick Allen: Yes, this is the bedroom. Ha-ha-ha.
See more »


Referenced in The Complete Citizen Kane (1991) See more »


What'll I Do?
Music by Irving Berlin
Duet played by Laurence Olivier and Ann Harding on the piano
See more »

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User Reviews

sounds like a western - it isn't
24 September 2015 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Studios must have known the value of naming a film correctly, but in the case of Pathe, they called this one Westward Passage, which sounds like a bunch of people on a wagon train.

Actually it's a film about a modern (1932) young married couple, played by Ann Harding and Laurence Olivier.

I thought this might be a play for a couple of reasons. First is the amount of dialogue and secondly, it was third class Noel Coward and probably trying to cash in on Private Lives.

The story concerns a writer, Nicholas (Olivier) who marries Olivia (Ann Harding). It seems as if five minutes after the honeymoon, the two start quarreling on a hourly basis.

They live in a small apartment; Nicholas' publisher is demanding that he change the end of his novel, and he's refusing and loses his temper; and then she hits him up with the fact that she's pregnant, which he wasn't planning on.

Eventually, they divorce. Olivia marries Harry, who adores her and has money, though she's not in love with him. Hers and Nicholas' little girl (Bonita Granville) accompanies her.

A few years later, in Lucerne, Olivia happens by a bookstore selling Nicholas' book, and Nicholas, exiting, hands her a copy. He's now successful and decides he wants her back. He even takes passage (get it? westward passage) on a ship she's traveling on without her husband.

This isn't very good. Olivier, wearing odd eye makeup, hadn't learned acting before the cameras yet, so he's over the top. He wouldn't learn it until Wuthering Heights when, before the cast, he said, "I suppose this anemic little medium can't take great acting," which sent director William Wyler, the cast, and crew into spasms of laughter.

He's high energy, probably trying to cover up for the fact that his part isn't well written. A friend of mine used to take a line from Rebecca, "I hated her," and imitate Olivier, going into falsetto on "hated." Ever since then, I've noticed when Olivier gets excited, his voice goes up an octave at least in his youth.

Ann Harding is lovely. Unfortunately the film is beneath both of them. Olivier was destined to become one of the greatest actors in both theater and film, not to mention one of the most glorious looking. The elegant Harding eventually moved into character roles, working into the 1960s.

These actors are always worth seeing, provided you can make it through this somewhat boring movie.

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