Let Us Be Gay (1930): Robert Z. Leonard’s Pre-Code Melodrama, Starring Norma Shearer and Marie Dressler, MGM’s Most Popular Stars

Robert Z. Leonard directed Let Us Be Gay, pre-Code romantic melodrama, starring Norma Shearer.

It was based upon Rachel Crothers’ 1929 play, starring Tallulah Bankhead, which ran for 128 performances at London’s Lyric Theater.

Cast against type, Shearer plays housewife Kitty Brown, who doesn’t spend much time on her personal appearance.  Dutifully devoted to her husband Bob (Rod La Rocque), she spends her time taking care of his needs. Bob is embarrassed to be seen with his wife because of her dowdy look and homemade clothes.

Kitty is therefore shocked when Bob’s latest girlfriend Helen shows up at their home. Kitty is polite, but she is actually heartbroken. She refuses to accept Bob’s apology, and he leaves.

Three years later, Bob is courting Diane (Sally Eilers), whose grandmother, Mrs. Bouccicault (Marie Dressler), is a leader in local society. Disapproving of the match. Mrs. Bouccicault invites for a weekend Kitty, now fashionable and attractive woman, hoping to break Diane and Bob up.

The other weekend guests, including Townley (Gilbert Emery), Madge (Hedda Hopper), and Wallace (Tyrell Davis), are baffled by the way Bob and Kitty behave; Kitty flirts with the male guests and speaks disdainfully of marriage.

Diane breaks up with Bob, and Kitty doesn’t want him either. He begs for another chance, and finally, she tearfully admits she still loves him.

The film was shot quickly due to Norma Shearer’s pregnancy.

As was the norms with other films of the era, a French-language version, Soyons gais, was filmed in 1931, directed by Arthur Robison, and stars Lili Damita, Adolphe Menjou, and Françoise Rosay.

Norma Shearer – Mrs. Katherine Brown
Marie Dressler – Mrs. Bouccy Bouccicault
Rod La Rocque – Bob Brown
Gilbert Emery – ‘Towney’ Townley
Hedda Hopper – Madge Livingston
Raymond Hackett – Bruce Keane
Sally Eilers – Diane
Tyrell Davis – Wallace Granger
Wilfred Noy – Whitman, the Butler
Sybil Grove – Perkins, a Maid
Mary Gordon – Mrs. McIntyre (uncredited)
Dickie Moore – Young Bobby (uncredited)


Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
Produced by Robert Z. Leonard, Irving Thalberg
Written by Frances Marion, Lucille Newmark, based on Let Us Be Gay by Rachel Crothers
Cinematography Norbert Brodine
Edited by Basil Wrangell
Production and distribution by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: August 9, 1930
Running time: 79 minutes