Indiscreet: (1931): Leo McCarey’s Pre-Code Comedy, Starring Gloria Swanson

Directed by Leo McCarey, Indiscreet is a fairly amusing (but not great) pre-Code romantic comedy, starring Gloria Swanson.


The script by Buddy G. DeSylva, Lew Brown, and Ray Henderson, based on their story Obey That Impulse, was originally written as a musical, but the film contains only two songs, “If You Haven’t Got Love” and “Come to Me.”

Swanson plays dress designer Geraldine “Jerry” Trent, who’s determined to start the new year right, by ending her affair with unfaithful boyfriend, Jim Woodward (Monroe Oasley).

Her friend Buster Collins then introduces her to author Tony Blake (Ben Lyon), whose book, Obey That Impulse, she likes. Practicing what he preaches, Tony proposes marriage, but initially Jerry just wants to have fun. She feels need to tell him about her affair with Jim, despite warnings from her Aunt Kate (Maude Eburne).

Though upset by the news, Tony still wants to marry her. Jerry’s sister Joan (Barbara Kent) arrives home from school in France, where, unknown to Jerry, she has fallen in love with Jim. When Jerry finds out, she warns Jim to stay away from her sister.

When Jerry finds out that business will prevent Tony from attending, she decides to go to Jim’s party to keep an eye on Joan. Desperate to break Joan’s engagement, Jerry first pretends to be crazy. When this doesn’t work, she pretends to still be in love with Jim.

Joan observes Jerry and Jim embracing, and so does Tony, who has arrived at the last minute.

Heartbroken, Jerry returns home, where Aunt Kate convinces her to pursue Tony who is about to sail for Europe.  She rushes to the boat, and Tony asks the captain to marry them right away.

In May 1931 the NY Times critic Mordaunt Hall gave Indiscreet a mixed review: “It may have its off moments so far as the few serious incidents are concerned, but when it stoops to farce, there is no denying its jollity … on the whole, it is a well-worked out entertainment, wherein gusts of merriment cause one to overlook its occasional flaws … Now and again the film sobers up, but the director and the authors have solved a way of inoculating it with further mirth, and even at the end there is a streak of fun that is almost Chaplinesque.”


Directed by Leo McCarey
Produced by Lew Brown, Buddy G. DeSylva, Ray Henderson

Written by Buddy G. DeSylva (story & scenario), Lew Brown (story & scenario), Ray Henderson (story & scenario), Leo McCarey

Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography: Ray June, Gregg Toland

Edited by Hal C. Kern
Distributed by United Artists

Release date: May 16, 1931