Cast & Crew
Londoners Lady Helen and Sir Alan Deardon are happily married and look forward to Alan's possible appointment to the post of Attorney General. At a reception at their house, however, Helen is frightened when Hugh Lewis, a stranger who has crashed the party, asks her for £2,000 not to make public love letters which Alan wrote to Lewis' wife, Diana Roggers, when Alan was a young man. Not wanting to worry Alan, Helen agrees to Lewis' terms and his suggestion that she meet him on the cliffs of Dover to receive the letters. She gets the letters in exchange for the money, and while waiting for Lewis, Helen sees a happy couple strolling and hears the husband shout a warning to his wife to be careful when she goes on ahead of him. Thinking that everything will now be all right, Helen accompanies Alan on a holiday in Biarritz, France, but their vacation is interrupted when Alan is called back to prosecute a man for murdering his wife. When Helen learns that the man accused of murdering his wife, Metford, is the man she saw in Dover, and that he is accused of pushing her off the cliffs, she knows that he is innocent and rushes back to London to help. She can't reveal that she was in Dover, even though the man has told police that a woman saw him and his wife out walking that day, and unsuccessfully tries to theoretically persuade Alan that Metford must be innocent. Soon Alan gets a letter from Diana and secretly goes to meet her instead of going to the christening of a friend's baby. When he returns home, he has a cut on his hand and is concerned about something, but will not say what it is. Meanwhile, Helen confesses her predicament to their friend William "Bunny" Jeffers. Hoping to show Alan that it would be difficult for an innocent man to establish a good alibi, he plays a parlor game and is surprised that Alan has a weak excuse for missing the christening. General Lawrence of Scotland Yard, a friend who is also present during the game, overhears and is suspicious. When a policeman comes to the house to tell Lawrence that Diana has been found strangled to death on Mallet Street, Lawrence becomes even more suspicious of Alan. As evidence mounts against Alan, Helen starts to suspect that he has been unfaithful to her, even though he swears he is innocent. Soon Helen is given a subpoena to testify at Metford's trial at the old Bailey. Though she tries to be evasive, when she is confronted with the information that a Dover bank clerk identified her as the woman who had exchanged two £1,000 notes for small bills and had taken down her car license number because he was suspicious, she breaks down. She then reveals the entire story about Lewis's blackmail scheme, but does not reveal who he is. Her recollection of the events at Dover clear Metford of the charge of murder, but by mentioning the blackmail plot, the judge insists that she name the man or be held responsible for withholding evidence. She then reluctantly reveals Lewis' identity, but by doing so, she further implicates Alan. During a court recess, General Lawrence confronts Alan and tells him that evidence points to him as Diana Roggers' murderer and suggests that he confess to save himself from the gallows. After asking to talk with Helen privately for a few moments, Alan confesses that he killed Diana, but says that she came after him with a knife and apparently mistook him for her husband. Helen then looks at a picture of Diana's husband and says that he is not the man who came to her and identified himself as Lewis. After newspapers print the story that the police are searching for a "phantom man," Lewis goes to see Helen and suggests that he can help Alan, but only if they agree to give him £10,000. He then goes to the police and says that he had seen Diana and had left her flat after she went into a rage. He then signs a paper to the effect and, after he does, Lawrence and Alan reveal that Alan did not really kill Diana. He had never gone to her flat, but Alan knew that the only way to entrap Lewis was to make him think that he had not killed his wife, but only strangled her into unconsciousness. With Lewis now behind bars and the case behind them, Helen and Alan look forward to resuming their life together.
E. E. Clive
Thomas A. Braidon
Dr. William Axt
Frank E. Hull
Howard Emmett Rogers
James Van Trees
Edwin B. Willis
The Unguarded Hour
Almost a year earlier, on the icy location for 20th Century's The Call of the Wild (1935), Loretta Young and Clark Gable had found more than one way to keep warm. Young's biographer Joan Wester Anderson later wrote that they did not actually have a full-fledged affair; rather there was "only one night when [Young's] iron will slipped." In any case, when the 22-year-old actress realized she was pregnant, she made The Crusades (1935) for Cecil B. DeMille and then vanished from public view. Her pregnancy had to remain absolutely secret because Young had violated her contract's morals clause, and revelation of this fact could easily have led to contract termination. (The studio probably would have been happy to arrange for an off-the-record abortion, but Young's religious views did not allow for that option.)
Citing exhaustion, Young and her mother went to Europe in June 1935, so as to be away from the prying press. They quietly returned a few months later and Young slipped into a little house in Venice, Calif., that the press did not know about while she brought her baby to term. Meanwhile, there was rampant public speculation as to what exactly was wrong with Loretta Young. Theories abounded, including the accurate one that she was secretly pregnant, possibly with Clark Gable's child.
The newly formed 20th Century-Fox studio had been waiting for Young's return so that they could begin shooting Ramona (1936). But Young got a doctor to tell the studio that she was still too ill to work and needed more rest to recuperate. Then, to quell the rumor-mills, Young, her mother and her doctor arranged for a short interview with Photoplay magazine. Covered with blankets and quilts to hide her pregnant body, Young delivered an impressive performance to Photoplay's Dorothy Manners, who fell for it hook, line and sinker. In her article "Fame, Fortune and Fatigue," Manners declared "the truth about Loretta Young's mysterious illness" was that overwork had "aggravated an internal condition from which Loretta has suffered since maturity. It has weakened her, sapped her strength... and an eventual operation is the only remedy."
In November, Young gave birth, and weeks later she went back to work, on loanout to MGM for The Unguarded Hour. (Ramona would follow a few months later.) Gable was at this time also working on the MGM lot, in San Francisco. He had separated from his wife and knew about his newborn daughter, but did not marry Young. Young "adopted" Judy and denied her parentage to all, including Judy herself, for decades. Only in her posthumously-published 2000 authorized biography did she finally admit the truth to the world.
The critical establishment generally admired the cast of The Unguarded Hour but not so much the picture itself. The New York Times declared, "If you are willing to check your reasoning at the door, the picture should prove entertaining enough." Supporting actor Henry Daniell won special praise: "Daniell's performance qualifies him as another of the screen's more interesting villains," the paper said - a prescient observation, for Daniell would go on to specialize in villains, including a delicious turn as Prof. Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes movie The Woman in Green (1945).
Variety, too, liked the cast, especially Franchot Tone, and said of Loretta Young, "Miss Young lends both relief for the eyes and a telling talent for emotional limning." On the other hand, the trade paper suggested that "at least 18 minutes" could have been cut out, and complained that "without the expert cast that's been wrapped around it, this English drawing room whodunit would have made a stodgy, meandering talkfest."
Director Sam Wood had recently helmed the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera (1935) and would soon take them on again in A Day at the Races (1937). Wood liked doing dramas, however. He once said: "Comedy is the toughest job I know. You're always trying to squeeze an extra something out of every scene."
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten, Sam Wood
Director: Sam Wood
Screenplay: Ladislas Fodor, Bernard Merivale, Howard Emmett Rogers, Leon Gordon, Horace Jackson
Cinematography: James Van Trees
Film Editing: Frank E. Hull
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: William Axt
Cast: Loretta Young (Lady Helen Dudley Dearden), Franchot Tone (Sir Alan Dearden), Lewis Stone (General Lawrence), Roland Young (William Jeffers), Jessie Ralph (Lady Agatha Hathaway), Dudley Digges (Samuel Metford).
BW-87m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
The Unguarded Hour
Bernard Merivale's adapted play opened in London, England, UK on 31 July 1935.
This film marked the first appearance of Loretta Young since the release of Call of the Wild in April 1935. Young was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the picture. The play The Unguarded Hour was adapted for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on December 4, 1944, starring Robert Montgomery, Lorraine Day and Roland Young.