What Every Woman Knows (1934): La Cava’s Romantic Comedy, Starring Helen Hayes

Gregory La Cava helmed What Every Woman Knows, a romantic comedy, starring Helen Hayes, Brian Aherne and Madge Evans.

Based on the 1908 play “What Every Woman Knows” by J. M. Barrie, it had been filmed before as a US silent, in 1921, starring Lois Wilson, and as a British silent, in 1917.

Hayes had starred in a 1926 Broadway revival opposite Kenneth MacKenna.

The Premise:

Alick Wylie (David Torrence) and his sons David (Donald Crisp) and James (Dudley Digges) are concerned about Alick’s daughter Maggie (Helen Hayes), who’s been jilted by a minister; they fear for her marital prospects.

When they catch the poor but ambitious John Shand (Brian Ahern) breaking into their house to use their library, they seize the opportunity. They offer him £300 to finance his studies provided that he marries Maggie after five years, and he agrees to a formal contract.

Maggie knows that “what every woman knows” is that behind every successful man is a woman who secretly strives to help him. In the end, he sees things her way, and is cajoled into laughing for the first time in his life.

A commercial flop, the film grossed (domestic and foreign) of $502,000, $340,000 from the US and $162,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $140,000.

Helen Hayes as Maggie Wylie
Brian Aherne as John Shand
Madge Evans as Lady Sybil Tenterden
Lucile Watson as La Contessa la Brierre
Dudley Digges as James Wylie
Donald Crisp as David Wylie
David Torrence as Alick Wylie
Henry Stephenson as Charles Venables