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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