Bride Wore Red, The (1937): Dorothy Arzner’s Melodrama, Starring Joan Crawford in Typical Role

The Bride Wore Red, directed by Dorothy Arzner, is based on the unproduced play The Bride from Trieste by Ferenc Molnar.

In this rags-to-riches Cinderella tale, a seemingly typical vehicle, Joan Crawford plays a cabaret singer who poses as an aristocrat, but she is unconvincing in both parts.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

The Bride Wore Red
The-Bride-Wore-Red -1937.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The Bride Wore Red was the last of seven films that Crawford made together with Franchot Tone, then her real-life husband, though there is no chemistry between them, perhaps a fault of the heavy-handed writing by several scribes.

In a Trieste gambling casino, the cynical Count Armalia (George Zucco) tells his friend Rudi Pal (Robert Young) that the only thing separating aristocrats from peasants is sheer luck.

In order to prove his point, he offers the club singer Anni Pavlovitch (Crawford) money–and wardrobe–to stay at an upper class resort hotel in the Alps for two weeks, and pose as his friend Anne Vivaldi, an aristocrat’s daughter.


Upon arrival, Anni meets and befriends Giulio (Tone), an amiably philosophical postal clerk.

Her old friend Maria (Mary Philips), who claims to be happy as a hotel maid, warns Anni not to become a victim of one of Armalia’s practical jokes.

Anni attracts the attention of Rudi, who is dining with his fiancée, Maddalena Monti (Lynne Carver), her father, Admiral Monti (Reginald Owen), and Contessa di Meina (Billie Burke).

Hoping to lure the amorous Rudi into proposing, Anni extends her stay, while the Contessa, suspicious of her origins, wires Armalia to get information about her.

When the reply comes through the post office, Giulio reads it and learns the truth of her real background.  However, on the way to deliver the note, he meets Anni, who confesses love for him; Giulio then loses the telegram when Anni stumbles and falls down.

On the evening of an annual costume party at which the hotel guests dress as peasants, Anni snubs Giulio when he offers her flowers. She still plans to marry Rudi, though, whom she has finally gotten to propose, after refusing to be his mistress.

Rudi tells Maddalena that he is in love with Anni and she steps aside. While Maria helps Anni pack, she tells her that the gaudy red beaded dress she plans to wear is what she is really like.  A whole sequence follows, in which Anni parades in that dress, in front of the mirror.

At dinner, Giulio delivers a copy of the telegram to the Contessa, who shows it to Rudi. Anni tells Rudi that he should marry his childhood sweetheart because she really is a lady.

After being comforted by Maria, Anni, unable to pay the bills, must leave the hotel.  She decides to take only her peasant costume, while Giulio is happily waiting for her.

Crawford, sporting an unflattering hair style, is miscast–even as a peasant–lacking the subtlety and charm that the role calls for.

Greeted with mixed to negative reviews, the movie was a commercial flop, and one reason why Crawford was labeled “box-office poison” by movie exhibitors.

Joan Crawford as Anni Pavlovitch
Franchot Tone as Giulio
Robert Young as Rudi Pal
Billie Burke as Contessa di Meina
Reginald Owen as Admiral Monti
Lynne Carver as Maddelena Monti
George Zucco as Count Armalia
Mary Philips as Maria
Paul Porcasi as Signor Nobili
Dickie Moore as Pietro
Frank Puglia as Alberto
Adriana Caselotti as First Peasant Girl
Jean Lewis as Second Peasant Girl
Ann Rutherford as Third Peasant Girl


Directed by Dorothy Arzner
Produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Written by Tess Slesinger, Bradbury Foote, Waldo Salt (uncredited), Catherine Turney (uncredited), based on “The Bride from Trieste” play by Ferenc Molnár
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Edited by Adrienne Fazan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: October 15, 1937

Running time: 103 minutes
Budget $960,000
Box office $1,200,000