A Lost Lady (1934) DVD Review: A Lost Cause

The Warner Archive Collection finds a rare Barbara Stanwyck flick co-starring the famous Emerald City Wizard himself, Frank Morgan.
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After witnessing the man she is due to marry (in just two days) get gunned down in front of her by a jealous husband (the cad!), poor Marian (Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity) becomes a bitter, dejected, clinically depressed recluse. Months later, her family, completely uncertain what to do with her now that she's so very sad and boring, pack up her belongings and ship her off to the Canadian Rockies so she can mope in peace there. And indeed she does, until she decides to run off into the woods after nearly experiencing an emotion, wherein she promptly falls off a ledge. Thankfully for her, a pre-Wizard of Oz Frank Morgan ‒ as an older, successful lawyer named Dan Forrester ‒ is there to save the injured beauty.

But simply helping Miriam recover from a sprained leg it isn't enough for Dan: he's determined to save her from her emotional anguish as well. Soon, he manages to bring her soul back to life. Naturally, the lonely old man proposes a marriage of convenience to her, much to the chagrin of Forrester's top junior associate, Neil (Talbot, in a rather minor fourth-billed role). Still lacking that irreplaceable ability to love, Miriam agrees to marry Dan, despite feeling no affection towards her kindly benefactor whatsoever. Soon enough, however, that will change once a lively swinger named Frank (Ricardo Cortez, Big Business Girl) lands his plane in her garden (seriously) and re-introduces to the sensation of lust.

Directed by Alfred E. Green (The Mayor of 44th Street), A Lost Lady features some surprising moments of extramarital intimacy for a movie that was released after the Hays Office began enforcing the Motion Picture Production Code. The film also features Phillip Reed, Hobart Cavanaugh, Henry Kolker, Willie Fung, and ‒ in a grand example of classic Hollywood sensitivity ‒ Italian-born actress Rafaela Ottiano (Grand Hotel, The Devil-Doll) as Stanwyck's "Asian" maid (who, thankfully, doesn't speak entirely in poor, broken English). Adapted from Willa Cather's 1923 novel of the same name, A Lost Ladycertainly lives up to its title when it comes to its presentation.

Clocking in at a brisk 61 minutes, most of A Lost Lady's cast seems as misguided as its eponymous character. Previously filmed by Warner Bros. in 1924 with Irene Rich, the original silent version has officially been declared as being "lost" itself after all this time, so this fairly routine and unappreciated remake will have to do. Fortunately for those of you who are interested in seeing Barbara Stanwyck honing in on her craft or who are curious as to what The Great and Powerful Oz did before reigning over the Emerald City can discover just that via this barebones Warner Archive release, which presents the film in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio from existing vault materials with an adequate mono soundtrack in accompaniment.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to leave you with the option to get Lost.

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