Thursday, October 9, 2008

Movies: Laughter (1930)

This is your great-grandma's rom-com (with a less happy ending, because old films are way less apologetic than new films). A beautiful showgirl has married into money, but can't stand her older husband (he spends all his time tallying his stocks and bonds with his male secretary) and still carries the torch for a piano playing composer she knows from her dancehall days, while a sculptor friend, from the same bohemian crowd, still carries the torch for her. Her fun-loving, flapper stepdaughter is only a few years younger than she is, and over a madcap weekend, the flapper and sculptor fall in love (with the help of a bit of booze), while the showgirl and piano player are playing house in a shuttered summer home after getting caught in a rainstorm during a country drive in a convertible automobile that ran out of gas (this is the movie's best scene; in order to warm up, they strip to their skivvies and dress up in the white and brown bearskin rugs found on the living room floor—complete with heads, which they wear as hoods!).

Things fall apart at a masquerade ball when the showgirl runs to stop her stepdaughter from eloping with the sculptor (who then kills himself), and the showgirl finally admits to her husband that she cannot, for all the diamonds in the world, remain married to him. She and the composer move to Paris, and we see them at a sidewalk cafe, happy at last, until the blinking diamonds on a wealthy woman's wrist catch the showgirl's eyes, and we see that she is beginning to bore of her composer, who is still reworking the same riff he was working back in New York. The grass, she reminds us, is always greener elsewhere.

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