Writers in movies: Their Own Desire

Another in a series.

Their Own Desire is a 1929 movie starring Norma Shearer. Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis:

A young woman is upset by the knowledge that her father is divorcing her mother in order to marry another woman. Her own feelings change, however, when she falls in love with a young man who turns out to be the son of her father’s new love.

First thing’s first: this movie is terrible.  Norma Shearer chews enough scenery to get an Academy Award nomination (she lost to herself, for The Divorcee, so I guess she couldn’t feel too bad about the defeat).  But the plot is primitive, and everyone else in the case is pretty bad, particularly Robert Montgomery as her love interest, maybe because he has to say lines like this, at a moment of high drama:

I’ve got the little ol’ canoe down at the landing; let me run you over to the little ol’ love nest.

The writer in the movie is Norma Shearer’s father, who splits his time between writing novels and playing polo at his club.  Apparently those were the days when writers belonged to clubs, and polo was a thing they played there.

The only reason why Dad is a writer and doesn’t have some other high-class occupation is so that to movie can include a scene where he describes to Norma Shearer the plot of his latest novel, which involves a 45-year-old married man falling in love with another woman.  Our heroine’s response is to laugh at the very idea of an old man like that falling in love.  Little does she know that the novel is based on her father’s own life, and soon frumpy old Mom will be dumped for the glamorous Mrs. Cheevers.  Irony!

Their Own Desire is bad, but still I’d rather watch a bad movie from 1929 than a bad one from 2014.  The past is a different country, and it’s interesting to pay a visit now and then.

5 thoughts on “Writers in movies: Their Own Desire

  1. Movies from 1929 are often dreadful, since all the studios rushed to make talkies without really understanding the technology. Some of them come across as overblown stage plays (THEIR OWN DESIRE sounds like one of those.) In some of them, the sound varies so highly that you can tell where the mikes are hidden — the actors turn a different way, and you can’t hear what they’re saying. On the other hand, the topics of some of these movies (especially before the Hayes Code) are pretty wild. I just watched a 1932 film based on Faulkner’s SANCTUARY. Whoo hoo! You could cut the sleaze with a knife.


    • I watched The Divorcee last night, from early 1930 — the movie for which Norma Shearer won an Oscar. It was much better in all respects than Their Own Desire. Most of all, it had real characters with real feelings.


  2. Bad is one thing, I have a high tolerance for watching bad movies. But I draw the line when the plot involves describing a man of 45 years as being old. I remember being 45 and I definitely wasn’t old then. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Writers in movies: Stuck in Love | richard bowker

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