This one isn’t funny… but then it isn’t supposed to be. Of the first four Powell-Loy films, three of them were not comedies.Evelyn Prentice is a melodrama. About what? It takes its sweet time to reveal its hand. In fact, almost the entire first half of the film seems to plod about aimlessly enough. It is worth hanging around for things to get going, though
William Powell is John Prentice, a brilliant New York attorney. Myrna Loy is his wife, the eponymous Evelyn Prentice. They’re happily married with a young daughter who perhaps gets a little too much screen time (but she doesn’t endanger the film). John and Evelyn’s trouble is his brilliance. He’s much in demand, working so much that he rarely sees his family. They’re very well-to-do so he could probably afford to take time off… but I suppose they’ll follow the plot anyway. It isn’t always entirely convincing but then there’s something about this kind of melodrama that can win itself a free pass from such details once the other cogs are turning. Turn, they do – William Powell is excellent as usual. Myrna Loy is… she’s okay – the funny thing is that even though she’s in the title role it isn’t that great a part. The rest of the cast does a fine job of whatever they’re asked, too. The little girl is a little annoying but really isn’t around much other than to be used as a touchstone for the state of the Prentice marriage. When things start to happen it turns out to be a reasonably predictable film, but satisfyingly so. You’re given enough information to either jump for the obvious conclusion, or, by recognising the signs that you’re being lead by the nose, come up with something else. It may even be the right answer.
In the end this one has a nice balance. Another Thin Man was light on comedy and heavier on overly-convoluted mystery and distracting shenanigans. This one is devoid of comedy and more focused once it has any focus at all. Where a mystery is central to a film it should be possible for the audience to work it out. It’s a nice change of pace from the other Powell-Loy films and perhaps a little unusual in its structure. Maybe they don’t make ’em like this any more because not everything it tried to do worked. Powell and Loy are there to hold your hand in those early stages when the film flounders a little, though. They’re charming and a delight to watch – particularly Powell, who gets the good part. I really enjoyed this one. It’s more than the sum of its parts and worth a look even if you aren’t a Powell-Loy fan.