Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The (1937): Boleslawski’s Dramedy, Starring Joan Crawford

Richard Boleslawski’s dramedy, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, was adapted from the 1925 play of the same name, written by Frederick Lonsdale, and previously made as a Norma Shearer star vehicle.

Our Grade: C+ (** 1/2 out of *****)

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney
Last of Mrs. Cheney 1937 poster.jpg

Original film poster

The movie stars Joan Crawford as an elegant jewel thief in England, who falls in love with one of her marks, played by Robert Montgomery.

When director Boleslawski died suddenly in the middle of production, George Fitzmaurice took over, and when he became ill, the film was completed by Dorothy Arzner. (Fitzmaurice and Arzner were uncredited).

The movie was previously made in 1929, starring Norma Shearer, and then again in 1951, as “The Law and the Lady,” starring Greer Garson.

Lord Francis Kelton (Frank Morgan) is smitten with a beautiful woman in his stateroom, and his playboy friend, Lord Arthur Dilling (Robert Montgomery), is fascinated by her. He finds out from the ship’s purser that she is American widow Fay Cheyney on her way to stay in England.

In London, she becomes the darling of English society, impressing Arthur’s wealthy aunt, the Duchess of Ebley (Jessie Ralph), who invites her for the weekend.

At charity auction at Fay’s house, her “servants” look forward to a profitable future, but Charles (William Powell), her butler, suggests that she may be fond of Arthur. Fay and her servants are operators planning a jewel robbery, using Fay front.

Fay sneaks into the duchess’ room and tries to steal her pearl necklace, but she is interrupted by a maid, and then by Arthur. The servants worry about the failure, and Fay finds it difficult to rob the woman because of her kindness.

Later, when Fay steals the pearls, Arthur confronts her, and tries to blackmail her into spending the night with him, but she refuses.  When she rings the alarm, th tries to take the blame, but she shows the pearls and reveals the truth.

Charles summons the police, using Arthur’s name, and they wait for Inspector Witherspoon (Lumsden Hare) of Scotland Yard. At breakfast,

Though at first amused, they are shocked to learn that Kelton has written the truth about all of them. Kelton suggests they pay Fay’s passage back to America in exchange for not revealing the letter’s contents. Fay, however, finds the offer too “dishonorable,” until Kelton finally offers £10,000. She has destroyed the letter already, though, and will not take the money.

She wants Charles to stay, but he declines, claiming he would have to remain honest if he stayed with her. After offering to return Arthur’s watch, he leaves Fay ignorant of the fact that he has turned himself in.

Arthur then proposes with a double kiss, marking the last of Mrs. Cheyney and the first of Lady Dilling.

The movie was only moderately popular at the box-office.

Cast
Joan Crawford as Mrs. Fay Cheyney
William Powell as Charles
Robert Montgomery as Lord Arthur Dilling
Frank Morgan as Lord Francis Kelton
Jessie Ralph as The Duchess of Ebley
Nigel Bruce as Lord Willie Winton
Colleen Clare as Joan
Benita Hume as Lady Kitty Winton
Ralph Forbes as Cousin John Clayborn
Aileen Pringle as Maria
Melville Cooper as William ‘Bill’
Leonard Carey as Ames, the Duchess’ butler
Sara Haden as Anna
Lumsden Hare as Inspector Witherspoon
Wallis Clark as George
Barnett Parker as Purser

Credits:

Directed by Richard Boleslawskil; Dorothy Arzner and George Fitzmaurice (uncredited)
Produced by Lawrence Weingarten
Written by Leon Gordon, Samson Raphaelson, Monckton Hoffe, based on the play “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” by Frederick Lonsdale
Music by William Axt
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Edited by Frank Sullivan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: February 19, 1937

Running time: 98 minutes
Budget $741,000
Box office $1,797,000

Note”

TCM showed the movie on October 4, 2020.