Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The (1929): Franklin’s Pre-Code Dramedy, Starring Norma Shearer

Sidney Franklin directed The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, a Pre-Code dramedy, starring Norma Shearer, was scripted by Hanns Kräly, based on the 1925 play of the same name by Frederick Lonsdale.

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney
ShearerCheyney.jpg

theatrical poster

The film’s sets were designed by the MGM art director Cedric Gibbons.

Fay Cheyney, a dynamically engaging femme posing as a wealthy Australian widow at Monte Carlo hotel, befriends Mrs. Webley, planning to steal her pearl necklace, a plot devised by Charles, her butler and partner-in-crime.

Complicating the situation are the romantic feelings she develops for Lord Arthur Dilling, Mrs. Webley’s nephew.

While taking the necklace at a party in the Webley home, Fay is caught by Arthur, who threatens to expose her unless she submits to him. Rather than compromise her principles, she confesses to her hostess, who plans to contact the police–until Lord Elton, another guest, recalls Fay has a love letter he wrote her that could be embarrassing.

They offer her money in exchange for the letter and her freedom, but when she destroys the letter and refuses their payment, they welcome her back into their social circle.

The main (only?) reason to see this early sound feature is Norma Shearer, who looks very attractive, displaying elegance in the way she is dressed and moves, even if the surrounding narrative is exceedingly creaky, betraying too much its theatrical origins; The original play ran on Broadway for 385 performances.

The film was remade twice, with the same title in 1937, and as “The Law and the Lady,” in 1951.

Cast
Norma Shearer as Fay Cheyney
Basil Rathbone as Lord Arthur Dilling
George Barraud as Charles
Herbert Bunston as Lord Elton
Hedda Hopper as Lady Maria
Maude Turner Gordon as Mrs. Webley
Moon Carroll as Joan
Madeline Seymour as Mrs. Wynton
Cyril Chadwick as Willie Wynton
George K. Arthur as George
Frank Finch Smiles as William

Oscar Context:

Screenwriter Hanns Kräly competed with himself for the for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and won instead for The Patriot.

Credits:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Directed by Sidney Franklin
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Written by Hans Kraly and Claudine West, based on The Last of Mrs. Cheyney by Frederick Lonsdale
Music by William Axt
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Edited by Conrad A. Nervig

Release date: July 26, 1929

Running time: 94 minutes