Don’t Bet on Women (1931)

In her only non-singing role, Jeanette MacDonald demonstrates her flair for sophisticated comedy as judge Roland Young’s neglected wife. When disillusioned playboy Edmund Lowe bets the judge that he can get the next woman to enter the room to kiss him within 24 hours, who should walk in but MacDonald, setting the stage for some vigorous, high-class flirtation. This was one of three films MacDonald made under a short-term contract with Fox Film Corporation after her initial splash in Paramount’s early operettas. None of her Fox films did well financially and she was back at Paramount within a year, but it was hardly her fault. Nor can it be blamed on her co-stars: Young is in top form as MacDonald’s husband, while Una Merkel does sterling work as Tallulah, a Southern innocent with a mouth that knows no censors. The film’s sexual politics are unusual. Although Young holds that women need men to guide them and protect them from evil influences, MacDonald takes the whole affair into her own hands after learning of the bet. Available for years in only a muddy video transfer, DON’T BET ON WOMEN provides a fascinating window on the past and a look at MacDonald’s under-appreciated comedic talents.

(d. William K. Howard, 70m, 35mm)

In Attendance: MoMA film curator Anne Morra

In attendance: Anne Morra