Westward Passage (1932) Poster

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5/10
Olivier chews it up...
inspectorfernack25 May 2009
I never, ever "got" Olivier. Even in his more famous roles I always thought he chewed the scenery to a ridiculous degree. And here, though he is handed a role that offers him no chance of redemption, he is as ham-handed as always.

Ann Harding, on the other hand, is as delightful as ever. Smart, sassy, intelligent, beautiful and thoughtful. I know she's pretty much forgotten these days, but she was a brilliant actress. From what I have seen, she never turned in a bad performance.

And Bonita Granville makes an audacious turn here as a child actress in her first role.

A film that is overly talky and lacking in plot, it is still worth enjoying....
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10/10
Poses & Postures From Olivier
Ron Oliver28 August 2004
A rich woman encounters her first husband during a WESTWARD PASSAGE across the Atlantic.

RKO Studios joined the lovely Ann Harding and the dynamic young Laurence Olivier in this rather pedestrian little soap opera, which gains its main distinction from its casting. The emotions on display are a bit tawdry at times, but the performances are certainly always entertaining.

Miss Harding, sadly rather obscure today, gives a fine portrayal of a woman slowly unfolding, like a rose, into becoming a successful, vibrant female. Even though she treats her second spouse rather shoddily, the viewer still cares about her and wishes her well. Olivier gives a marvelously hammy performance, full of stagy flourishes & fidgets. Always mindful of the camera, he makes himself a coquette to the viewers, so effortlessly stealing every scene that it's easy to forget just how petty, irresponsible & disreputable his character actually is.

A fine cast of players offer able support: Irving Pichel as Harding's decent, dull second husband; Juliette Compton & Irene Purcell as her wealthy, worldly girlfriends; slow-burning Edgar Kennedy as a henpecked husband aboard ship; Herman Bing as a comic factotum; and little Bonita Granville as the precocious offspring of Harding & Olivier.

Best of all is dear ZaSu Pitts, all fluttery gestures & rolling eyes, as the wonderfully vague proprietress of the quaint honeymoon inn where Olivier takes Harding, twice.
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4/10
An early Laurence Olivier film, but the character he plays sinks the film.
Art-223 February 1999
The trouble with this film is the character played by Laurence Olivier. In the words of other characters in the movie, he is "selfish, self-centered, conceited and egotistical." I would add brash, argumentative and stubborn. In short, I hated his character, which ruined the film for me, even though without those qualities there would not have been a film. Apparently, 1932 audiences agreed with me; Olivier was persona non grata at RKO after this film lost $250,000 at the box office. Olivier went back to England and didn't make another film in America until Wuthering Heights (1939), when his talents were much more appreciated.

Besides being an early film of Olivier, this film is also noted for being the film debut of Bonita Granville, then ten years old. She gives a good performance, and you can see she is a natural born actress. The always lovely Ann Harding is also worth seeing, as well as Florence Lake and Edgar Kennedy, who have a nice bit of comic relief in one short scene aboard ship.
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7/10
Ann Harding Was Charming
drednm2 June 2006
Very odd story about love and marriage and responsibility that does features some good acting by Ann Harding, Laurence Olivier, Zasu Pitts, Irving Pichel, Irene Purcell, and Juliette Compton, but the characters don't seem to be very bright.

I assume this was a very "smart" stage play but it just doesn't wash on screen. Harding, a big star in the early 30s, usually plays very smart, very classy women but here she's rather a dope. Olivier plays a selfish fool who keeps trying to be charming, and is! Ultimately the total unreality of the central characters overwashes the best of intentions and good acting. The divorce is not very believable, but the re-marriage is absurd.

Also co-stars Bonita Granville, Herman Bing, Ethel Griffies, Florence Roberts, Florence Lake, Edgar Kennedy, and Don Alvarado.
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7/10
Nice Drama
fsilva19 September 2003
I liked this movie, in fact I like very much Ann Harding's "natural" acting style, her fresh appearance, her smile, she's a great (& forgotten) talent, and she needs to be rediscovered, as the excellent actress (& star) she was in the early thirties. Thanks to TCM, I've been able myself to "discover" her luminous presence on the silver screen, because few of her films are available on any format, on the market.

Here she plays nicely opposite a very young Laurence Olivier, and they have wonderful chemistry, as a struggling couple of newlyweds, trying to cope with their "incompatibilities", he's an aspiring writer and she tries hard to be the "devoted" wife.

Nice support from Irving Pichel as Harding's eternal suitor, Juliette Compton as Harding's sophisticated cousin,... check for Bonita Granville's first film role, as Harding & Olivier's daughter, who looks very, very pretty...she's already got plenty of talent & that "je ne sais quois" that made her a child star, later in the decade, as the brat in Goldwyn's 1936 "These Three".

A quality picture.
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4/10
One Egotistical Jerk
bkoganbing18 April 2013
In the Citadel Film series book on the Films Of Laurence Olivier, Lord Olivier was not crazy about any of his movies before Wuthering Heights. But as to this film Westward Passage he was grateful to his co-star Ann Harding for being generous to a newcomer from across the pond. Maybe Ann wanted to make sure the blame went all around for this film.

Olivier came over the USA for the first time when RKO signed his then wife Jill Esmond and they found work for him as well. In this film he plays one massively egotistical struggling novelist whom you will positively hate as you see the film. He marries Ann Harding and they have a daughter who grows up in 10 years to be Bonita Granville.

Olivier embarks on a campaign to win his wife back who is now married to the earnest, but stodgy and rich Irving Pichel after Olivier literally threw her into his arms. This is after 10 years and Olivier is now a big success.

Quite frankly I found Olivier in this film to be one egotistical jerk and can't imagine why Harding isn't well glad to be rid of him. Of course I'd provide for visitation for Granville, but that's it.

Some good comedy relief is provided by Zasu Pitts playing an innkeeper. But this film is a romantic comedy that completely misfires.
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3/10
A love story ruined by genuinely selfish characters that are difficult to like
MartinHafer18 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
What's up with Laurence Olivier's character? The film begins and he's in love with his new wife (Ann Harding) and he is very charming. However, just a few minutes later, he's moody, unpredictable and a jerk! While the idea of his not appreciating his wife and his job getting him down is good, he just comes off as too selfish and emotionally volatile and you can't understand how ANY woman could love such an oaf. I don't think it's really his fault, mind you, but the script that allowed for no slow and logical progression of his moodiness. When they divorce, it is because Oliver "wants a place of my own where I can work"--without a wife or child getting in his way! Nice guy, huh? In hindsight, I think the film might have been better if they'd had Olivier be nicer--at least until his career has truly hit bottom.

Now time has passed. Harding has remarried--this time to a genuinely nice guy. However, six years later, she meets up with Olivier while in Switzerland and he tries very hard to win her back despite the past. Considering that his child now is happy and only knows the other man as her father and the ex-wife seems happy, you can correctly assume that Olivier's character STILL is a very selfish and despicable man. How Harding or anyone could fall for him or even talk with him again defies common sense and made the movie tough going for me. Harding allowing Olivier the chance to win her back by letting him wine and dine her on the boat voyage back to the States made her a bit despicable in my eyes as well.

I think the movie COULD have worked had Harding NOT created a new life with a new husband. After all, the new husband didn't deserve to be hurt. Secondly, they should have shown Olivier undergo a genuine transformation into a truly decent guy--not the same old guy who has mellowed some because he's now a successful writer.

Overall, the film looks good and has good production values. However, I have a hard time thinking about any film of the time with such convoluted characters and values. After all, Harding DID seem quite wiling to hurt her new husband and going back to Olivier only possibly fell through at the very last minute. In fact, such a film could not have been made after the Production Code was strengthened in 1934, as the behaviors of the characters in the film would have violated the new standards of the film industry. Call me old fashioned, but in this particular case, I longed for the post-code values.
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5/10
sounds like a western - it isn't
blanche-224 September 2015
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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6/10
A dashing Olivier in an early film about love and art
atlasmb21 September 2015
This "drama" comes across more as a comedy of manners since a) most of the story concerns the romance between two characters and b) I believe the intent was to focus on the dialogue, especially between those two characters. Released in 1932, "Westward Passage" came not long after the advent of talkies, and I think studios were still learning about the capabilities of scripts not limited by title cards.

Since this film is only 73 minutes in length, the transition between scenes and the passage of time are rather choppy, short-changing what might have been a more interesting story if it were developed more.

The primary characters are Olivia Allen (Ann Harding) and Nick Allen (Laurence Olivier), who we first meet as giggly newlyweds arriving at the inn of Mrs. Truesdale (Zasu Pitts).

Suddenly the newlyweds are dullyweds, living in a cramped flat, dealing with the realities of life. Nick, a writer, feels inhibited by his lifestyle and harangued by his editor, who wants him to add a happy ending to his manuscript. What does this portend for our lovebirds, we might wonder? Suddenly, baby makes three and Nick is thrust into the tedious responsibilities of fatherhood. Ill feelings ensue.

The center of the conflict is Nick's preoccupation with the idea that an artist must live a solitary life to create real art, unhampered by the quotidian aspects of life. At the same time, the Allens love each other. It seems love and art are incompatible.

Nick loses Olivia, then tries to woo her back, quoting "Paradise Lost" and singing "What'll I do". Olivia displays a resolution to always be proper, but her love for Nick--that literary bad boy--is undeniable and, like love sometimes is, unfathomable.

If you are wondering "What'll they do?" and "will paradise be regained?" you will have to watch this film that is very representative of its time, even if it could be much smoother. The dialogue contains some clever lines, but not enough to earn this film high marks.
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4/10
yak yak snooze, but with Harding and Olivier
mukava99118 June 2009
No one can deny that Ann Harding was something to look at, and that is about all this film has to offer. Her co-star is a very young mustachioed Laurence Olivier working very hard to make something of an unconvincingly written character -specifically, a high-strung novelist who resents churning out hack material for quick money to pay the bills while living in a small apartment with his wife (Harding) and a baby daughter. Eventually he can take no more, divorces his wife and goes off to write what he pleases in peace, leaving his wife to marry a long-time admirer (Irving Pichel) who provides her with money and status even though she is not in love with him. Years later the estranged couple meets again in Lucerne. By now he is a successful and famous novelist and impulsively decides to wrest back the woman he had deserted. Throughout the proceedings they bicker and make up with tiring frequency. The movie is mostly talk in the Noel Coward style but without the Coward sparkle. The fights and reconciliations, including the reuniting of a divorced couple at a classy resort, are very reminiscent of Coward's "Private Lives" which had been filmed with disastrous results the year before. As in "Lives," the couple even plays and sings a song from time to time, in this case "What'll I Do?" In short, this is good if you like watching Harding, a great screen beauty, and examining the meticulous craftsmanship of Olivier. Otherwise it's a leaden and witless talkathon.
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7/10
Some very good moments, but not entirely successful film
Night Must Fall18 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I did enjoy Westward Passage on the whole, but the film has quite a few flaws: 1) Olivier's Nick Allen character was unlikeable for the most part, capable of very wide mood swings within a matter of seconds. (Having dated someone like this for 2 ½ years, I can tell you, it's no picnic). It was hard to have any sympathy for him, or to identify with the character. 2) Ann Harding's performance was serviceable, but way too low-key for Olivier, getting lost in their many scenes together, making virtually no impact. 3) By the time ZaSu Pitts returns in the middle of the film, her whining has become so annoying and unecessary, you will feel like punching her lights out. 4) Harding's other love interest is seen as a schemer from the start, and it was difficult to want the two of them to stay together, so he was not really a good foil for Olivier.

Bonita Granville, who played the protagonists‘ daughter, was very good in her small role, and one of the most beautiful children I have ever, ever seen. WOW!

AN EXCELLENT MOMENT: (spoiler) After being slapped in the face by Harding, Olivier, definitely a cad, but no woman-basher, takes his anger and frustration out on Ralph the giraffe (a symbol of his wife) by slapping it across the face. This is such a small thing, yet this little touch, so matter-of-factly played, added both humor and poignancy at a pivotal point in the film. Without a doubt, this was one of the best little pieces of action I have ever seen in a movie, and the filmmakers should be proud.

The film's ending is left open to interpretation as to whether or not there will be a reconciliation between the two, which I thought was good. Lots of nice piano playing of lovely songs throughout the film was also a plus, however the film was too episodic in structure, and therefore never really took off.

Recommended for its good points and for Olivier's performance.
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Where was David O.?
johnhartstudio114 July 2011
Noticed when Westward Passage came on TCM that in the credits page at the bottom was listed David O. Selznick, thinking I was going to at least see high production value. I did, but 'Wsstward Passage' as one of Selznick's first films at RKO Pathe' is not mentioned in Maltin's Movie Guide,or even in Ronald Haver's, David O. SELSNICK'S Hollywood.

Was David not that proud of it, as Executive Producer?

Probably not, as it goes on a bit too long and the scenario is repetitive.

Olivier's makeup almost matched Ann Harding's.

Larry is struggling to be a movie start.

Ann just struggles. Although at least she shows some emotion in her argument scenes with Larry -- Ann is pretty but in a neutered sexual way. johnhartstudio1@mac.com
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