"I was having personal problems and I let them get in my way. If I'd done it right,
I'm sure I'd have been nominated for an Oscar." ~Joan Crawford on "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney."
"The Last of Mrs. Cheyney" 1937
Cast: Joan Crawford~William Powell~Robert Montgomery~Frank Morgan~Jessie Ralph~Nigel Bruce~Colleen Clare~Benita Hume~Ralph
Forbes~Aileen Pringle~Melville Cooper~Leonard Carey~Sara Haden~Lumsden Hare~Wallis Clark~Barnett Parker.
Director: Richard Boleslawski
Box Office Figures for "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney":
Cost: $N/A ~ Domestic Studio Gross: $N/A ~ Foreign Studio Gross: $N/A
Total: $N/A / Profit: $N/A
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Stars: Four stars
Review: Based on a stage play by Frederick Lonsdale which had been filmed in 1929 with Norma Shearer, "The Last of
Mrs. Cheyney" tells the story of a beautiful, sophisticated woman, Fay Cheyney (Joan Crawford) who charms her way into
British high society in order to steal a pearl necklace. Crawford, attired in Adrian dresses and gowns that are glamorous
and chic without being overdone, is enormously attractive and alluring here with elegant diction and poise, yet she clearly
seems a tad sad or depressed, her presence somewhat subdued. (It was not surprising when I learned that she was having marital
problems at the time.) Nonetheless, she gives an assured performance with the excellent timing that was one of her particular
gifts as an actress and nuanced line readings. It was particularly wonderful to see her paired with another of my favorites,
the debonair William Powell who is her partner in crime in the film, Charles, ensconced in the household of the targeted wealthy
family as a butler. Crawford and Powell make a delicious team, and I only regret that they didn't make more films together.
Crawford's frequent co-star Robert Montgomery stars as Lord Arthur Dilling, the man whose eye Fay catches and who also has
an eye on the goings-on.
Among the supporting players are some of the MGM's best character actors: Nigel Bruce, Frank Morgan (now best known for
"The Wizard of Oz") as Lord Francis Kelton, the superb Jessie Ralph as the Duchess of Ebley (memorably charming
in this small role) whose necklace Fay is slated to steal, and Benita Hume, Ralph Forbes and Aileen Pringle as part of the
band of thieves who are all disguised as servants.Fay has misgivings about stealing the necklace from a woman who trusts her,
but decides to do it for Charles who, as one later learns in what comes off almost as an "in joke," taught Crawford
the ropes when she was merely a "shopgirl" and thereby brought her from poverty into the upper echelons of society.
After botching a first attempt at the heist, Fay makes another and is caught in the act by Lord Arthur who gives her his
own terms and conditions by which he won't turn her over to the police. But, not accepting his terms, Fay turns the tables
and reveals all to the family. Charles loves Fay and is a complete gentleman, willing to indict himself in order to protect
and save her in the light of any wrongdoing, but a final twist comes when Fay and Charles are able to reveal the family as
having skeletons of their own. A happy compromise is reached by all that sees Charles going off to Europe to continue his
adventures and Fay about to begin a "respectable career" as Lady Dilling which will assure "the last of Mrs.
Much of the dialogue is wonderful, particularly the attitude Fay takes towards herself, maintaining a dignity and poise
under pressure or criticism that adds to the featherweight lightness of the film. The Duchess, enchanted by Fay early on,
sees her as a kin spirit, a "respectable woman with the heart of an adventuress" which Fay later corrects, saying
that she is really an "adventuress with the heart of a respectable woman." Crawford and Powell are both perfect
as jewel thieves with their sophistication, light banter and elan, making me wish they wound up together romantically at the
Utterly delightful and a great chance to see Powell and Crawford together. As an extra note: veteran director Richard
Boleslawski died tragically before the film was completed and although he received sole directorial credit, the film was completed
by Dorothy Arzner who would later team again with Crawford in "The Bride Wore Red."