This week we have an entry from 1932 that, considering the ratio it racks up, I’d have preferred it be shot in 1938. That’s a bit of a quibble, as it has some good furs, and the viewer can certainly take their time and enjoy them. Besides, it was either this or a ’70s Aussie exploitation film TCM probably showed by accident or something. I’ll get to that one later. For now, let’s check out this Lady with a Past.
Lady with a Past – The Film
Constance Bennett stars as Venice Muir (a name someone should probably use in a future exploitation film), one of those rare non-madcap heiresses from the ’30s. Venice is not precisely “left at the altar” but has her elopement to Paris canceled by playboy Donnie Wainwright (David Manners). As, obviously, Donnie is totally not a jerk; she cooks up a plan to follow him to Paris, make him jealous, and get him back. She is aided by Guy (Ben Lyon), an employment-challenged individual who becomes her fake gigolo. Since this isn’t a 1980’s romantic comedy, she doesn’t end up with Guy; she gets her man Donnie in the end.
Lady with a Past – The Furs
Constance Bennett does most of the fur-wearing in the film, and boy, is there a lot of it. A couple of others help her out, but their contributions are slim compared to hers. In general, the fur fashions are pretty exemplary of the early ’30s, where designers were still ramping up to the glorious excesses of the late ’30s.
We start with this red fox stole. I don’t care for the more common silver fox variant, so making a red fox version doesn’t help much. You can also note the tiny fox trim on the dress of Lola Goadby (Astrid Allwyn) opposite Venice.
Speaking of which, there’s that exact silver fox stole on Ann (Merna Kennedy). She’s visible in this long sequence for only a few seconds, but those few include this reasonably good shot.
Cut to Paris, where Venice meets Guy and eventually hires him. She’s hanging out in a cafe in this fox-trimmed outfit.
This is one of the two furs the film allows the viewer to indulge, as the entire sequence provides almost four and half minutes to take it in. It is sprinkled with fine close shots such as this.
On to the second piece of fur fashion, we’ll be seeing a lot, a short jacket with a rather agreeably large collar and cuffs. I’m going to say this is probably a dark sable, though it could be a black fox.
The fur is onscreen for about ten whole minutes, which is amazingly impressive even for this decade.
This illustrates a good rule of thumb when designing fur collars, the less you can see the back of the wearer’s head, the better.
It is onscreen so long that we get a few fine close shots to study it further.
While the dark fur-trimmed jacket is the film’s “big” fur, it’s hardly done. As Venice is building her rep as the most desirable woman in Paris, she’s in quite a few more furs. I can’t say this is a favorite, but I’m sure others can appreciate the short mink cape.
Later there’s a poorly filmed, quick look at this fox-trimmed coat. Another reason to wish it was 1938, as this would probably have been all fox.
Yet more, this blue fox-trimmed top also has some small cuffs that can be seen later.
She meets up with Lola again upon returning to New York. Lola is wearing… a fur coat. Not sure what kind of fur that is, but I can at least be sure it’s fur. It could be some form of rabbit.
Finally, the film’s end gives us this, a long black and white ermine fur coat. This is where she and Donnie finally get together.
Another one for the missed-opportunity pile, the fashioning of the coat is superb, with a high collar and full sleeves, but the use of ermine mitigates that. Even mink would have been a better choice here.
Lady with a Past clocks in at a 39% on-screen fur ratio. That is almost four times the rough average of 10% I sort of made up based on what I recall from all the previous updates. So, for over a third of the film, you’ll be seeing someone wearing fur. I can, and have, quibbled over the kind of fur in the film, but if you’re a little less picky than me (and I sense many, many are), then this probably goes into the “must-have” pile.
Fur Runtime: approx 31 minutes
Film Runtime: 80 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 39%