Let Us Be Gay (1930): Pre-Code Romantic Dramedy, Starring Norma Shearer

Robert Z. Leonard directed Let Us Be Gay, a pre-Code romantic drama, starring Norma Shearer at the prime of her popularity; in the same year, she won the Best Actress Oscar for The Divorcee.

The dramedy was shot while Rachel Crothers play upon which it was based still ran in London, with Tallulah Bankhead in the lead.  (In the future, Bankhead would lose many of her great stage roles to Bette Davis when they were made into movies).

Shearer plays housewife Kitty Brown, who neglects her personal appearance, in devotion to her husband Bob (Rod La Rocque); Bob is embarrassed by her dowdy look and homemade clothes.

When Bob’s girlfriend, Helen, shows up, Kitty is polite, pretending to know about the affair, but she’s heart-broken. Later that evening, she leaves Bob to get a divorce, taking their two children with her.

Three years later, Bob is courting Diane (Sally Eilers) whose grandmother, Mrs. Bouccicault (Marie Dressler), is a stern society leader. Mrs. Bouccicault invites Kitty for the weekend, turning her into an attractive woman, hoping she would break up Bob’s affair.

Kitty flirts with the male guests, which surprises Bob, and they pretend to meet for the first time. The other weekend guests, including Towney, Madge (Hedda Hopper), and Wallace, are baffled by Kitty, who speaks disdainfully of marriage, pretending to be happily divorced.

Bob begs Kitty to marry him again, when he hears a sneeze; Townsend is hiding in the bathroom. He leaves through the terrace only to find Wallace waiting with a poem in hand.

Bob is upset to overhear Kitty making plans for a yacht trip with Towney, but her nanny shows up with Kitty and Bob’s children.  Diane breaks up with Bob, but Kitty says she doesn’t want him either. Bob begs for another chance, and she tearfully confesses she still loves him.