The war story love triangle: girl mets boy, girl marries boy, girl thinks boy dies, girl meets second boy, girl marries second boy, first boy returns, one of the boys dies. Suzy isn’t even an interesting spin on it. The film throws in a relationship between lower class Jean Harlow with her upper class father-in-law Lewis Stone in an attempt to make the story poignant, to give her character some depth, but it fails miserably. Watching the scenes with the two of them, the attempted manipulation reeks. The two aren’t bad together, but Suzy works at its best during moments of high charisma. Cary Grant (as the second boy) has a lot of it, but Franchot Tone’s actually got more in his scenes. Tone’s doing an Irish accent for most of the film (it appears after his first or second scene) and it’s mildly grating, but he’s still good. Harlow ranges, when the character makes sense, she’s good. When it doesn’t, she’s only okay. Unfortunately, the script rarely bothers making sense.
The film does succeed on a few levels, mostly due to George Fitzmaurice’s direction. It has two definite periods–England before the war and France during–and Fitzmaurice gives each part of the film an atmosphere. These distinctions don’t help the film much, but it’s good work and it makes the film a more pleasant experience. His direction of dramatic scenes is pat–a lengthy long shot followed by some close-ups and then a medium shot–but the sets are at least nice. The supporting cast helps a lot in Suzy–Una O’Connor’s got a great scene and there are some others… The film’s quality isn’t particularly bumpy. It does get better after awhile and might actually approach getting good, but it betrays the story in the end. I timed the last act, trying to guess the resolution to the love triangle and figured for a couple scenes–one between Harlow and the winner and another with Lewis Stone, since the film hung everything on he and Harlow’s friendship. Following a couple great action scenes–one of them was just flying footage from Hell’s Angels, but the other one must have been Fitzmaurice unless Suzy was written to match Hell’s Angels leftover shots–the film stops. The love triangle’s resolved, but there’s nothing else. It becomes a war picture for the first time. Instead of finishing the characters’ stories, the audience gets a bit about valor and distinction and then a “The End.”
Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell wrote (some of) Suzy and, according to IMDb, they were a highly paid screenwriting team. They were a waste of money.
Directed by George Fitzmaurice; screenplay by Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Horace Jackson and Lenore J. Coffee, based on the novel by Herbert Gorman; director of photography, Ray June; edited by George Boemler; music by William Axt; produced by Maurice Revnes; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Starring Jean Harlow (Suzy), Franchot Tone (Terry), Cary Grant (Andre), Lewis Stone (Baron), Benita Hume (Madame Eyrelle), Reginald Mason (Captain Barsanges), Inez Courtney (Maisie), Greta Meyer (Mrs. Schmidt), David Clyde (‘Knobby’), Christian Rub (‘Pop’ Gaspard), George Spelvin (Gaston) and Una O’Connor (Landlady).