Borrowed Wives (1930)

Nita Martan and Rex Lease in Borrowed Wives (1930)

The Bachelor's Inheritance

So here is the good news "Borrowed Wives" is free to watch because it is another old movie whose copyright was never renewed and so has falled into the public domain. The bad news, well it is a weak romantic comedy farce featuring a handful of stars you probably have never heard off, jokes which struggle to kick in and not a lot else.

Peter Foley (Rex Lease) is a man with a debt but also a way out because as long as he get marries he will inherit a tidy sum from his grandfather. Unfortunately his attempts to marry Alice Blake (Vera Reynolds) hit a problem when her flight is delayed. Joe Blair (Robert Livingston) who Peter owes money to comes up with a plan, for his secretary Julia (Nita Martan) to pretend to be Peter's wife so that he can visit his Uncle and claim the inheritance. The trouble is that not only does Julia already have a boyfriend in the shape of cop Bull (Paul Hurst) but Peter's uncle has desires on the money he himself and plans to use his creepy old house to stop Peter from claiming it.

To say "Borrowed Wives" is convoluted is to do it injustice because it is more convoluted than your average farce which goes from an initial race to an airport between two young man to this daft set up of Uncle Henry with a haunted house. Being convulted wouldn't have been an issue if the humour had been sharper but it is all so stilted and forced with the repeat joke of Julie's lipstick leaving marks on men being over used.

Now in someways it is what you expect from a movie which featured actors who had cut their teeth in the silent years and this very much feels like one of those early talkies where they were still fathoming out the best way to make the jokes work. But unlike some earlier talkies it does feel weeker than normal with an almost first draft feel of a script quickly churned out with out the necessary fine tuning to make it more that just ideas slapped together.

What this all boils down to is that "Borrowed Wives" isn't terrible but more of an example of the problems which early talkies had as they tried to find humour which worked in voal form. Maybe with better actors and a bit more time taken on the script it would have worked but the end result is barely average at best.