Among the stellar names on the list of silent screen stars who saw their careers collapse, with the arrival of talking pictures, is Gloria Swanson. Her first talkie, "The Trespasser" (1929), was a success; this was initially made as a silent, and quickly refilmed in a sound version. She tried a second talkie in 1930 and another in 1931, and both were failures. Swanson, her fame nevertheless undiminished, went to England in 1933 to star in — and produce — "Perfect Understanding" [Cohen]. This one quickly disappeared, and after one more attempt in 1934 the star drifted into celluloid oblivion. Swanson never quite disappeared, but her screen stardom was long past when in 1950 she was unexpectedly "ready for her close-up" in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard."
The all-but-unseen "Perfect Understanding" now surprisingly turns up from the new Cohen Film Collection. It is at once interesting, watchable and not very good. Here we have one of those "sophisticated marital" comedies, only it is not very sophisticated. Woman and man, not wishing to become like their unhappily married friends, promise each other that their marriage will be based on a "perfect understanding" of trust and honesty. She leaves him alone in Cannes during their extended honeymoon — she trusts him so much, you see — which leaves him unable to resist the advances of an ex-mistress. Back in London, he confesses. She goes off with another man (although not actually); but he thinks the worst — especially when she turns out to be pregnant. They file for divorce, but during the trial he discovers the truth. They kiss, make up, and, while the lawyers are fighting it out, tip-toe away like Elyot and Amanda in Noël Coward's 1930 comedy Private Lives.
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