Easy to Love (1934) is the kind of witty drawing room comedy that Hollywood specialized in during the twenties and thirties, full of high society folks, brazen affairs, jealousy, romantic games, and risque wit, all swirling around bright, busy farce. Based on the 1930 Broadway play As Good as New, it’s set in the mansions and playgrounds of the urban elite, outfitted in handsome evening wear and gorgeous gowns, and filled with volleys of clever quips and veiled suggestions under the cover of social decorum.
Adolphe Menjou and Genevieve Tobin star as John and Carol, a seemingly happily married couple who spend their evenings in the company of Charlotte (an elegant Mary Astor), a beautiful artist, and Eric (the eternally hapless Edward Everett Horton), a fussy industry kingpin known as “the sardine king.” It’s quite a quartet: John loves Charlotte, Charlotte loves John, and Eric loves Carol. It would all be quite neat except that while John and Charlotte carry on a passionate and well-ordered affair, Carol still loves John and, after putting a private detective on the case, she makes her plan to win him back by fighting romantic fire with fire.
“The basic principle of good screen fare is the same as the basic principle of the solar system,” according to the film’s director William Keighley. “No matter what kind of stars you’re dealing with, you must observe the natural law of attraction and repellence.” In other words, casting is key.
Plays on TCM on Thursday, March 20