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Private Lives (MGM) (1931)

Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery Una Merkel , Sidney Franklin  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery Una Merkel
  • Directors: Sidney Franklin
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • DVD Release Date: June 22, 2009
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0029712X6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,690 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Private Lives (MGM)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

True wit meets marital grit in this timeless Noel Coward comedy about two bon vivants who can't live without - or with - each other. Having barely survived the warefare of their wedlock, Amanda (Norma Shearer) and Elyot (Robert Montgomery) decide the play it safe, choosing dull mates to marry the second time around. But pedestrian is no match for passion, especially when mixed with proximity - as in adjourning honeymoon suites! Off they go, leaving stunned new spouses to console each other. But it isn't lomg until the brawls begin again. Montgomery was never more suave and Shearer never more slinky than in this pinnacle of the sophisticated comedy. A true classic regularly produced on stages everywhere, this was Coward's personal favorite of all his plays.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely Potent February 16, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Well, it ain't Noel and Gerty, but it ain't bad, either. Long regarded as a pale imitation of the West End and Broadway original (which MGM helpfully filmed so Mrs. Thalberg could study Lawrence's effects at leisure), all these years down the road the film version stands on its own pretty legs. Nice comic playing from Montgomery and a really fine performance from Norma Shearer (if only she'd been this light in THE WOMEN, that movie would be a half-hour shorter!) Fun to compare this to the play; both the opening-up and the dance around the censors find some happy solutions. Plenty to enjoy here.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CHARMING VENTURE INTO 1931. January 18, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
Considering this movie is over 70 years old, it holds up extremely well! Montgomery and Shearer act in a refreshing, modern manner, and the dialogue is sparkling. One can see what the public saw in both the leading players: Montgomery has a sly, rascally personality, while Shearer is quite the 1931 "moderne". They play a couple with a tempestuous relationship. Although once married, they have since divorced and married other mates. While honeymooning at the same French hotel, (Quelle coincidence!) they have trouble showing affection to their new spouses and realise they still feel passionately about one another. The video print is clear and sharp and the sound is very good. Excellent acting combined with Coward's witty dialogue make this film a rather surprising treat from the early talkie era.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A howler of a screwball comedy! January 12, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
One of the many underknown gems from the screwball comedy genre, "Private Lives" has it all. A first rate cast; Montgomery, Shearer, et all, deliver a performance as prickly and as sharp as anything ever done by Grant & Hepburn or Powell and Loy. A top notch script full of Noel Coward's grace and wit is easily the equal of "His Girl Friday" or "The Philadelphia Story." And , of course, a supporting cast only the old studio system could plug in to fill out the roster. So why isn't it better known? Who the heck knows, know you do! Enjoy!
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Coward-y Custard April 30, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
With "Private Lives", MGM production head Irving Thalberg attempted to further the career of his wife, Norma Shearer. He would have done better to put her in another of the naughty drawing-room comedies she was so good at doing. In 1931, it was impossible to put an honest "Private Lives" on film, and the compromises that were made to turn the play into a Shearer vehicle actually sabotaged Norma.
The movie version is "opened up" considerably from the play; screenwriter Hans Kraly threw everything from train trips to mountain-climbing into Coward's two-set comedy. Kraly missed the point Coward was making: that Elyot and Amanda's world is themselves alone. Staging some of their famous fights in public made them look pathetically in need of professional help, not inextricably bound to one another.
Kraly was required to do some violence to the play's text by way of studio-mandated censorship. Coward had motivated his characters by giving Elyot and Amanda dialogue with a keen erotic edge, much of which Kraly was obliged to remove. With so much of the sexual charge gone, the remaining words felt like little more than disagreements between two unsympathetic people.
Shearer also suffered from the casting of Robert Montgomery as Elyot. His performance is clockwork, remembering every line and bit of business, hitting every mark, but never finding Amanda necessary as life itself. Shearer was often able to transcend her lack of training if she was playing to a deeply talented actor, and it's too bad she didn't have that blessing on this film.
The supporting cast was uneven; Una Merkel has a weird, grainy accent that slides loopily between transatlantic hoity-toity and Southern belle, and she joins Montgomery in playing by the numbers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Pre-Code Comedy April 9, 2006
Format:VHS Tape
This is a thoroughly entertaining, amusing comedy, based upon Noel Coward's famous stage play. Norma Shearer is close to perfection as Amanda and Robert Montgomery is equally good as her ex-husband Elyot, who meet by chance while honeymooning with their respective newly-acquired spouses.

I had expectations about this particular film and they were surpassed by the top-notch material. Norma Shearer looks radiant and is much better suited to this kind of comedic roles than to dramatic ones, in which she sometimes tends to overact (for instance, in "Strange Interlude" a flawed but still worthwhile film).

"Private Lives" must contain one of Norma's best performances ever; she's fresh, lively, with lots of spunk, mischievous, fierce, determined, stubborn, flirtatious, a joy! Bob Montgomery is excellent as her counterpart and probably this is the best of their five pairings. Witty, delightful and sophisticated dialogue; the leads also handle in an excellent way physical comedy, near the conclusion of the film.

Reginald Denny and Una Merkel are very good as their respective new spouses.

Top production values and first class treatment by the MGM gloss. Sidney Fraklin's direction is deft and the pacing is great.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
Norma Shearer is superb in this classic, hilarious, devastatingly honest film from the brilliant Noel Coward play. Norma's roots in silent film is read on her face in an exquisite moment early in the scenario, in which she slowly, agonizingly, then tenderly, then with horror, realizes that she and her new husband are located in a hotel suite next door to her ex, and his new bride. The play of emotions on Shearer's face, from shock, to dread, to agonized pain, then tender warmth and remorse, and back to horror and panic about what she must next do, is worthy of an Oscar, in and of itself. This film made me worship Norma Shearer as one of the greatest acting talents, ever. And the play itself is so warm, so realistic, so tender, so honest about the crazed reality of love. The screaming fight scenes alone between the Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery are absolutely amazing in their honesty; one will never see in all the films of today anything about love and marriage that is so honest, and simultaneously, so completely hilarious. It is really one of the most spectacular plays, and one of the most adorable films, that has ever existed.

I will await this movie's reissue on DVD with feverish hope and anticipation...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars You have to love Norma and Robert Montgomery in this
There was also another Robert..Robert Taylor..who also did a few movies with her also..and they were pretty good also,I would say that a few of her best screen partners besides... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Victoria R.Remington
4.0 out of 5 stars Believable Comedy
It's like all of the best comedy we've known in movie making. Most of all, the dialogue is clear and succinct.
Published 3 months ago by Robert C. Vespa
5.0 out of 5 stars Noel Coward at his wittiest.
I absolutely love this film! Norma and Robert are fantastic as exes who end up at the same place on their respective second honeymoons. Read more
Published on September 11, 2011 by Jennifer L. Price
5.0 out of 5 stars Noel Coward's Wittiest Play
This MGM film of the Megahit play by Noel Coward is said to carefully follow the performances on stage by Gertrude Lawrence and Mr. Coward Himself. Read more
Published on May 11, 2010 by James Bryant Wiser
5.0 out of 5 stars Great DVD
This is a great DVD with outstanding quality. I had never seen this movie before buying the DVD but it is very enjoyable. Lots of Laughs! Highly Recommend! Read more
Published on August 7, 2009 by Loves Labs
3.0 out of 5 stars Warning!
This title, among quite a few now listed at Amazon, is available directly from the Warner Archive for only $19.95. Why pay more?
Published on July 11, 2009 by Erwin K. Giesemann III
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great comedies of all time.
If you like Noel Coward, sophisticated people and their marriages and divorces, and their cynicisms and very polite violence, you will love this film. Every scene is a riot. Read more
Published on July 7, 2009 by Daniel G. Madigan
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable But Flawed Version of the Stage Classic
British wit Noel Coward (1899-1973) is best remembered for his wickedly funny comedies. Many, myself included, consider PRIVATE LIVES his single finest work. Read more
Published on January 21, 2005 by Gary F. Taylor
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