The Easiest Way
|The Easiest Way|
|Directed by||Jack Conway|
|Produced by||Hunt Stromberg|
|Written by||Edith Ellis|
|Based on||The Easiest Way
by Eugene Walter
|Cinematography||John J. Mescall|
|Editing by||Frank Sullivan|
|Running time||73 minutes|
The Easiest Way is a 1931 American MGM drama film directed by Jack Conway. Adapted from the 1909 play of the same name written by Eugene Walter and directed by David Belasco, the film stars Constance Bennett, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Clark Gable, and Anita Page.
Growing up in a poor working-class family, Laura (Constance Bennett) works hard to support her abusive father Ben (J. Farrell MacDonald). He encourages his other daughter Peg (Anita Page) to marry a hard-working man named Nick (Clark Gable), to profit from his income. Laura disagrees, and feels that one should marry out of love. Nevertheless, she rejects a marriage proposal from the boy-next-door to become involved with William Brockton (Adolphe Menjou) a wealthy man many years her senior whom she met at a modeling job. She allows him to shower her with expensive gifts and moves into his luxury apartment.
Her newly found wealth does not come without any backlash, though. Her mother Agnes (Clara Blandick), refuses to see her daughter because she has changed for the worse, on becoming a kept woman. A visit to Peg, who is now married to Nick, is ended abruptly by Nick's demand that she leaves his house immediately. Even though she realizes that she has become estranged from her family, she continues to stay with Brockton.
Sometime later, while vacationing in Colorado, she meets and falls in love with young newsman Jack Madison (Robert Montgomery). After a brief affair, and they've pledged their fidelity to one another, Jack is stationed in Argentina for a several months, as Laura promises him that she will leave Brockton. She breaks the news to Brockton, returns all of his gifts, leaves his apartment, and takes a job at Macy's department store.
Another night, Ben visits Laura to inform her that Agnes is terminally ill and in urgent need of an expensive stomach analyst. Laura, unable to find steady work, is upset that she cannot provide her mother with the financial support that she needs. She unsuccessfully asks one of her former colleagues Elfie St. Clair (Marjorie Rambeau) for a loan. After Agnes dies, a nearly destitute Laura returns to Brockton. He is only willing to take her back on condition that she inform Jack that she has reconciled with Brockton and will not see Jack any longer. She promises him that she will, and does return to him, but is later thrown of by a phone call from Jack announcing his imminent return to New York.
Desperate, Laura turns for help to Elfie, who advises her to leave Brockton and marry Jack. Jack arrives, but her plans to elope with him are cut short when Brockton unexpectedly shows up. Brockton, noticing Laura's packed bags, informs Jack of what happened during his absence. Laura tries to explain the situation, but Jack is too angered and leaves. Heartbroken, she leaves Brockton and travels to her family home, where she watches - from outside - her relatives having Christmas dinner. Nick notices Laura, and invites her in, comforting her with the promise that Jack will take her back someday.
- Constance Bennett as Laura Murdock, a.k.a. "Lolly" by her immediate family
- Adolphe Menjou as William Brockton
- Robert Montgomery as Jack Madison
- Anita Page as Peg Murdock Feliki
- Marjorie Rambeau as Elfie St. Clair
- J. Farrell MacDonald as Ben Murdock
- Clara Blandick as Agnes Murdock
- Clark Gable as Nick Feliki
- Lynton Brent as Brockton Associate (uncredited)
- Jack Hanlon as Andy Murdock (uncredited)
- John Harron as Chris Swoboda, Laura's Suitor (uncredited)
- Dell Henderson as Bud Williams (uncredited)
- Hedda Hopper as Mrs. Clara Williams (uncredited)
- Charles Judels as Mr. Gensler (uncredited)
- Elizabeth Ann Keever as Tillie Murdock (uncredited)
- William H. O'Brien as Alfred, Brockton's Butler (uncredited)
- Andy Shuford as Bobby Murdock (uncredited)
- Francis Palmer Tilton as Artist (uncredited)
In the scene where Jack and Laura are horseback riding in the (ostensibly) Colorado mountains, he has them dismount so he can show her his "pet view"; actually, the famous eastward looking view of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
The film is based on a 1909 David Belasco produced Broadway hit play that starred Frances Starr. In 1917 Select/Selznick Pictures produced the first film version, a silent, which starred Clara Kimball Young and Rockliffe Fellowes. First National planned a film adaptation in 1927. Henry King was assigned as the director, whereas Belle Bennett and Conrad Veidt were set to star. David Fink, who produced the project, received many objections to the adaptation due to the play's immoral nature. Even though he dismissed this by reminding officials that "a film like Sadie Thompson" could be released, he later abandoned the project, discussably because of censorship problems with the Hays Office.
After Joseph M. Schenck & David O. Selznick and Universal Pictures briefly considered to work on an adaptation, one of the DeMilles picked up the project in March 1928, until a conversation with Will H. Hays motivated him to drop it. In 1929, a producer named Sam E. Rork working for Fox considered making the film, but he was warned not to "undertake a thing which other responsible companies have already decided would not be good for the industry." Rork was among other producers in this period discouraged to make the film.
Pathé purchased the story in 1930, but it was resold by Pathe following another warning by Hays Office. Columbia Pictures was offered by Hays Office to adapt the film on condition that they retitled it and that they bring the story into conformity with the Production Code shortly before MGM bought the rights, but they rejected it. In November 1930, Irving Thalberg was set to produce, and he was contacted by the Hays Office, who complained that "the trouble with the adaptation is that it builds up audience sympathy for Laura Murdock and supplies her with the means of securing sympathetic excuses for, if not actual approval of, her weakness of character." Additionally, the Office labeled it "much more dangerous than the original play, which for a long time has itself been considered dangerous motion picture material" and commented that the story did not go "far enough in building up the idea that Laura is being punished."
Foreign Language Version
Ultimately, the film, like many others in the 1930s, was subject to censorship at the hands of the Production Code Administration. Several alternate endings were created for this film. Following its release, Columbia sent a complaint letter in which it accused Hays Office with "unfairly preventing the studio from making the film, while allowing M-G-M to produce it." Meanwhile, censorship boards in Ireland, Nova Scotia and Alberta objected to the film and prevented its release.
According to MGM records the film earned $654,000 in the US and Canada and $249,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $193,000.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- The Easiest Way as produced on Broadway at the Stuyvesant Theatre, January 19, 1909 to June 1909
- The Easiest Way 1917; IMDb.com
- "Notes for The Easiest Way (1931)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
- The Easiest Way at the Internet Movie Database
- The Easiest Way at allmovie
- The Easiest Way at the TCM Movie Database