Two Against the World (1932)
Directed by Archie Mayo with a screenplay by Sheridan Gibney (The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935)) this average drama stars Constance Bennett as a wealthy socialite in a non-comedic role! Neil Hamilton plays her love interest a lawyer with scruples (!). Besides these two anachronisms it’s the “solution” to the trial in the end that is most appalling. Most will recognize Helen Vinson Roscoe Karns and Alan Mowbray in less prominent though significant roles.
The Hamiltons are a family whose fortune provides a very comfortable lifestyle for its principals and heirs. The patriarch and only producing member is Courtney Hamilton (Walter Walker); his daughter ‘Dell’ (Bennett) son Bob (Allen Vincent) his sister Agatha (Clara Blandick uncredited) married daughter Corinne (Vinson) and son-in-law George (Mowbray) all derive income from his efforts. Hamilton’s lawyer Gordon Mitchell (Hale Hamilton) informs them all at a board meeting that the estate is being sued by the widow of a former employee that died while working for the family’s business. The widow’s lawyer turns out to be David Norton (Hamilton) who’d flirted with Dell in the elevator on her way to the meeting. Though most of the family is indifferent Courtney is determined to fight the claim and so it goes. However Dell ends up visiting Norton at his office giving the widow $100 to tide her over and promising to pay her the same each month until the matter is settled. Norton is stunned and the two start dating beginning a ritual of eating beans together Norton smothering his with catsup.
Dell invites Norton to a party at the Hamilton residence. While Courtney is gracious Agatha is quite upset until Norton reveals that he’s from a wealthy family as well and she finds out they know some of the same people. During the course of the evening Norton goes outside and sees Corinne alone in an intimate conversation with Victor Linley (Gavin Gordon). Drunken Bob decides to play a trick on Norton telling him that Dell had invited only to be the joke of the party which he’d ruined by actually “being somebody”. Norton believes him and leaves in a huff despite Dell’s pleadings.
Later at another “party” at Linley’s Bob loses $2000 to his host while gambling at the roulette table. However Linley returns Bob’s IOU saying “it’s all in the family”; evidently Linley and Dell are supposed to be an “item”. In fact Bob then wanders into Linley’s bedroom where he finds an “H” monogrammed makeup case on the pillow. He confronts Dell with it disgraced by her lack of discretion. Though Dell knows it’s Corinne’s and not hers after a quick glance returned by her sister and seeing that George is still in the room Dell apologizes to her brother and takes the item which she later returns to Corinne.
Talking about it later Bob gets angry with Dell and then Corinne convinced that Linley is using Bob’s gambling debts to force Dell into an affair. He storms out of the house on his way to see Linley. Dell dons her raincoat and follows but she’s too late. After entering the lobby of Linley’s apartment and being seen by the doorman Dell discovers her brother in the elevator with a gun having just shot Linley. She thinks fastest and the two leave by the back entrance. When Courtney sees Dell questioned refusing to admit that she’d been out that evening he uses his influence with the District Attorney (Oscar Apfel) to get the search for the mystery blonde dropped. However a reporter named Segall (Karns) probes the mystery and involves Norton in the case. By happenstance Segall brings the doorman to Norton’s at the same time that Dell is there and the identity of the mystery woman is discovered.
Dell is put on trial for Linley’s murder and the D.A. makes Norton the prosecutor. If you think this sounds convoluted “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”.
*** SPOILERS ***
Leading up to the trial a radio commentator (Selmer Jackson uncredited) and a society reporter (Virginia Sale also uncredited) have a field day with the “heiress murder case”. At the trial Norton doesn’t really try to get the truth out of Dell and out of his love for her rests his case on her flimsy testimony. Someone (Luis Alberni uncredited) watching the trial stands and cries foul. Then the foreman of the jury asks if he can ask a question. The truth comes out but the headline in the newspaper proclaims “Not Guilty … unwritten law frees brother”. Why? For defending her honor? While the rest of the Hamiltons escape scrutiny by leaving on a ship bound for Europe Dell secrets away to eat beans with Norton.