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The Great Lie Reviews

Grand soap opera at its best. Here Davis is a wealthy socialite in love with Brent, a reckless playboy flyer. Astor, a concert pianist, is also in love with Brent, who marries her on the spur of the moment, but later they find out the wedding may be invalid. Brent offers to go down the aisle again with Astor but is secretly relieved when she puts him off, saying she must play a concert first. Next Brent goes to Davis' Maryland plantation, where he proposes to her--he's definitely got marriage on his mind--but Davis, who had broken off her engagement with him before because of his irresponsible ways, tells him no, or, at least, she will hold judgment until his recent marriage to Astor is thrown out as illegal. Before any of this can happen, Brent goes off on a government-sponsored flight to South America and is apparently killed in a crash in the jungle. On a trip to New York Davis meets Astor, who is pregnant with Brent's child, and the magnaminous Davis takes Astor to her Arizona ranch. There the boy is born, and Davis passes the child off as her own to save Astor's career. Then, while Astor is off on an Australian tour, Brent shows up very much alive, having survived his jungle exploit. Davis hides the truth about the baby from Brent but, when Astor returns from her tour, she insists that Davis tell all. Brent does not go into shock, only upbraids Davis for withholding the truth, then tells her he still loves her and wants her to be his bride. He, too, is generous, saying that Astor can have the child, but he intends to stay with Davis. Confronted with this, Astor opts for a clean break, giving up not only Brent to Davis, but also the baby, saying that he should stay with his real "mother." It's all improbable hogwash, but director Goulding pulled off a minor miracle by putting together a splendid production and not sinking completely into the saccharine. A very soupy but effective score was produced by Steiner; the great Warner Bros. composer preferred to score Davis films. Astor, who played the piano and actually performed part of the difficult Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, got her part, and subsequently an Oscar for Supporting Actress, through Davis. The overweight Astor frantically went on a diet for the film but still appeared fat before the camera, so designer Orry-Kelly suggested she cut her long hair severely. The hair slashing gave Astor a slimmer appearance and, once the film was released, her hairstyle became the rage in America. Astor and Davis were beautifully combative, and many came to believe that they actually feuded off screen the way Davis and Miriam Hopkins had years earlier. But they enjoyed each other's company and actually reworked many of the scenes together, to the point that director Goulding was often amazed at their invention.