Fitzmaurice undertakes the great marriage fantasy, a wonderfully recondite model for Yorkin’s The Thief Who Came To Dinner.
His opening scene is the tour de force, the Amateur Cracksman at work in a Bond Street shop lighted from the street and emulated to effect in Henry King’s Marie Celeste.
Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief and Edwards’ The Pink Panther are in the line as well.
Strangers May Kiss
A Gothamite (Norma Shearer) loves a scribbler (Neil Hamilton) freely, he dumps her in Mexico for a scoop (he has a wife repining in Paris).
A tippling Bostonian (Robert Montgomery) admires her but is rebuffed, he rescues her from a Spanish count and returns her to Manhattan Follies, where the scribbler, divorced and now a businessman (Arab oil deal), settles down with her at last.
A great satire of men in her clutches, overwhelmed and outgunned by the brass tenacity of her witty lovemaking, and then a miracle happens, the Virgin of Kazan intervenes on behalf of a Russian lieutenant she has duped.
He crashes his plane and is left mercifully blind for a time, but she, the German spy, has conceived a love for him that lasts all the way to the firing squad (and she shoots her old dupe, General Shubin, to protect the lieutenant).
There is a lot of very fine acting, mostly on a comic basis, the drama is between Mata and Hari, as it were, very forcefully played by Greta Garbo.
Criticism descends from Mordaunt Hall’s “beautifully staged and ably directed” in the New York Times. “As a picture,” says Variety, “very secondary”. According to Time Out Film Guide, “it becomes impossible to dissociate the legend of the star from the myth of Mata Hari”. And there is Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader), for whom the direction is “without a trace of wit or style”.
The supreme joke is that the lieutenant is a fool, but there is a proverb about fools and wiseacres.