(1930), 102 min., b&w
Rose Hobart and Basil Rathbone
||A Lady Surrenders is a film from 1930 that starred Conrad
Nagel, Genevieve Tobin and Rose Hobart. Basil Rathbone had a
relatively small part in the filmso
small in fact that the character he played isn't even mentioned in
most of the reviews seen below. The role is, however, crucial to the
story. In a nutshell, Basil plays a character who seduces a married
woman and then dumps her. The cad!
The film is based on John
Erskine's novel Sincerity: A Story of Our Time. As often
happens when novels are adapted for the screen, changes to the plot
are made. Unfortunately, the film is not available for us to watch
(apparently a copy exists in the Library of Congress), so it is
impossible to compare the two and to know for sure what changes were
made. The details presented here about the character Rathbone played
come from the book.
The married woman, whom "Carl" (Rathbone)
eventually seduces, is a writer named Isabel Beauvel. Long before
meeting Carl, she is happily married to Winthrop Beauvel. At least,
she believes she is happy in her marriage. After writing an article on
how women feel trapped in marriage, she will not put her own name to
it. She uses a pen name because she fears people (especially her
husband) will think she is writing about herself. She insists to her
friend Mary that she is happy, and these ideas are just observations
that she felt like writing. The article is
published, and when Winthrop reads it, he says, "What sort of trash it
this?" As Isabel feared, Winthrop believes that the author of the
essay is an unhappy woman. Isabel cannot admit that she wrote it.
One day, Isabel receives a letter from a man who says that since
his marriage he, too, feels stifled and thwarted. He wants to meet the
author of the essay, in order to ask her some questions about himself.
She deduces from the tone of the letter that the man no longer loves
his wife. Then, with horror, Isabel recognizes the return address is
the letter box Winthrop uses for his businessWinthrop
wrote the letter!
Isabel and Mary discuss what to do about the letter from Winthrop.
Mary counsels Isabel to confess all to Winthrop, but Isabel feels she
cannot do so because she has deceived him, and the deceit will always
be therehe'll never trust her,
etc. But Isabel wants badly to know what Winthrop would say to
the author of the essay, so she begs Mary to go in her place. Mary
agrees to pretend to be the author, and meet Winthrop because she
thinks it will be an exciting adventure.
Winthrop and Mary meet at a restaurant and hit it offa
little too well. Winthrop praises the article and confesses how
he feels about Isabel and their marriage. Mary, who never wanted to
get involved in their marital troubles, tells Winthrop that Isabel
wrote the article and she's the one who deserves the praise. They part
on friendly terms.
Isabel now believes
that her husband and her friend have fallen in love, and Winthrop has
betrayed her. In a huff, she leaves him, and sails to Europe.
On the ship Isabel meets a charming gentleman named Carl (Basil Rathbone),
and she finds him intriguing. Her dinner companion for the remainder
of the voyage, he is interested in discussing literature, always tactful, and in
subtle ways flattering. He seemed to be a perfect gentleman.
One of the best society dramas produced by
Universal for some time. The strength of it comes from the fact that
not only is the story strong but it has been acted well. The
heroine's part is taken by young Genevieve Tobin, a stage actress,
who is beautiful and acts well. In her part she is supported by Rose
Hobart, also a stage actress, who takes the part of the hero's wife.
Her work is excellent, but her part lacks sympathy. Conrad Nagel
takes the hero's part. The picture has been produced lavishly, and
the atmosphere of a wealthy home is realistic. The most dramatic
situation is that which shows the wife of the hero returning from
abroad, not a divorced woman, but bent upon taking her place in her
home: The hero, having taken it for granted that his wife would have
gone through with the divorce proceedings, as she had stated she
would do, marries the heroine. Miss Tobin acts wonderfully the part
of a young woman, mortified as a result of her having discovered
that she was married to a man who had not been divorced. The title
is derived from the words, "The lady surrenders," uttered by Miss
Hobart, when she, realizing how much Miss Tobin and Conrad Nagel
loved each other, decides to go to Reno to obtain a divorce, so as
to make the legal marriage of the two lovers possible. Miss Tobin
had proved to her that she was sincere in her love of Nagel when she
stepped in front of an automobile to take her life away when she had
found out that Miss Hobart would not give up Nagel.
The cause of
the first estrangement was the fact that Miss Hobart devoted her
time to writing novels and to having grand parties with her society
friends, neglecting her husband. The hero felt great pleasure at the
company of Miss Tobin, a friend of his wife, who had visited them.
The sympathetic attitude of Miss Tobin made life pleasanter for him,
until he fell in love with her; and as she, too, had fallen in love
with him, both felt they would find happiness in their marriage.
The plot has been founded on John Erskine's novel, "Sincerity."
It was directed by John M. Stahl with intelligence. Basil Rathbone,
Edgar Norton, Carmel Myers, Franklin Pangborn and others are in the
cast. The talk is clear.
Harrison's Report, September 27, 1930
Isabel settles in Paris. She spends her time writing short stories, visiting book stalls, and
then going to a matinee
or to the Louvre or some other cultural thing. One day, Isabel runs into
Carl, who is delighted to see her again. He invites her to dine with him,
and she accepts. She finds him courteous and charming. He is interested in
hearing Isabel read her stories to him. Feeling lonely, Isabel is
susceptible to Carl's flattery; she appreciates the praise he gives her.
The next day Carl moves into the hotel room
next to Isabel's room. His conduct has been beyond reproach, so Isabel has
no reason to be concerned about his motives. But that night, as she sleeps, Carl unlocks the door
between their adjoining rooms, comes to her bed and makes love to her. Although she had not invited him to her room, she doesn't
kick him out of bed. Her resolve to refuse him melts under his kisses.
Basil Rathbone and Rose Hobart
Basil Rathbone and Rose Hobart
The month that followed is like a honeymoon for Isabel and Carl,
although they are not legally married. Declaring his love for her, Carl
says that they are married now, just without the papers. In private he
makes passionate love to her, and worships her body with unfailing
tenderness. In public, however, he behaves in a courtly manner. He is chivalrous and considerate;
no one would guess that they were lovers.
And then one day, quite unexpectedly, Carl disappears! In response to
Isabel's query, the maid informs her that Carl left during the night with
an actress who had also been staying in the hotel. How could he be so
Isabel had been eager to get her divorce so that she could be legally
married to Carl. Now she is no longer interested in pursuing the divorce.
She writes to Winthrop, telling him she changed her mind.
Universal announced early this season that the
company intended to strike off on a new tack, making a high class of
pictures aimed for the best theatres everywhere. If this one is a
sample of what may be expected throughout the year, the company
should be in for a banner season. Carl Laemmle, Jr., has
demonstrated his ability to turn out good pictures, and he certainly
can be proud of this one. It is one of the highest quality pictures
ever turned out by the company and should prove a box-office hit,
provided exhibitors get behind it.
The picture is designed purely
for adult consumption. There is nothing in it for the kiddies, and
the wise showman will govern his advertising appeal accordingly. It
is a frank and diverting story of a mismarriage, the husband finding
his wife not suited to him by inclination and temperament, and
falling in love with the wife's girl friend.
Direction is capital throughout, the interest being well
sustained, save for some drawn-out sequences about the middle of the
picture. These can be trimmed without at all hurting the story's
development. As it stands now, the picture is too long, running one
hour and 42 minutes.
Rose Hobart and Genevieve Tobin turn in splendid performances as
the wife and the other woman, respectively. Miss Hobart has the far
more difficult part and certainly puts it over in splendid fashion.
Miss Tobin is an attractive and capable trouper. Conrad Nagel is
very good as the husband and the remainder of the well-balanced cast
includes Basil Rathbone, Edgar Norton, Carmel Myers, Franklin
Pangborn, Vivian Oakland and Grace Cunard.
Winthrop Beauvel (Conrad Nagel), well-to-do manufacturer, is
married to Rose Hobart, a successful novelist bored with her
husband. She is the author of a bitter article on marriage. Winthrop
reads the article and writes the author (the article having been
published under a nom de plume) and makes a date with her to discuss
Isabel sends her friend, Genevieve Tobin. The two spend the
evening together. Winthrop is forced to spend the night in a hotel
because of a heavy rain and Isabel accuses him of unfaithfulness,
packs her bags and starts for Europe with the avowed intention of
seeking a divorce.
En route she meets Carl Vaudry, a continental philanderer, falls
in love with him and upon her arrival in France sets about to obtain
a divorce. On the day the divorce is to be granted Vaudry jilts her.
She drops the case and returns to America.
In the meantime, Winthrop, thinking himself divorced, marries
Mary. They return from their honeymoon the same day Isabel lands. A
violent scene between the two women ensues and Mary finally dashes
from the house and attempts suicide by throwing herself in front of
an automobile. She is only slightly injured but the effect is
softening on Isabel, who agrees to go at once to Reno and obtain a
divorce, pronouncing the love of Winthrop and Mary too deep for her
A story with unusual twists, well developed and finely acted.
Effort will be needed to get them in, but if given the help it
deserves this should be good box-office fare, and it surely will
Reviewed by Charles F. Hynes
Motion Picture News, September 27, 1930
Meanwhile, back in New York, Winthrop and Mary have been romantically
involved with each other. Thinking that Isabel has gone through with the
divorce, Winthrop marries Mary. He doesn't receive Isabel's letter until
he and Mary return from their honeymoon. Mary is horrified to learn that
she is not legally married to Winthrop, and when Isabel returns, she and
Mary have a violent argument. Mary is so upset that she attempts suicide.
Isabel finally "surrenders" and
leaves Mary and Winthrop. She agrees to divorce Winthrop.
The ending of the film is very different from that of the book. In the novel Sincerity, Isabel returns to Winthrop after living
in Europe for ten years. She shows up at his doorstep because she
still loves him. Winthrop had not granted her a divorce, so he and Mary
were both aware all along that he was still legally married to Isabel. Winthrop and Mary have been sharing a home, and Mary is
known in the community as "Mrs. Beauvel." But they live together more like
brother and sister than husband and wife: affectionyes,
friendshipyes, emotional supportyes,
sexno. When Isabel returns, Mary
packs up and leavesquietly and
without drama. Isabel intends to stay with Winthrop, but he doesn't love
her anymore. The implication is that he won't allow her to stay with him.
The ending is unsatisfying and not nearly as interesting as the beginning.
Basil Rathbone and Rose Hobart
In A Lady Surrenders, Rathbone "was
pronounced by the critics as 'accomplished,' 'gifted,' 'rare ability,' 'excellent,' etc. I shall ever recall that
never-to-be-forgotten kiss he gave Rose Hobart in that picture; it will be
a constant reminder that the polished, smooth drawing room manners may be
but the velvet covering of a masculine volcano. Basil Rathbone has the
shoulders of a football player, the strength of a lion in his hands and
wrists, and all of the grace and superb manners of the perfect cavalier." Anita
Delglyn, "A DiamondNot in
and Hollywood Movies, March 1931)
Universal offers in this adaptation of John
Erskine's novel, "Sincerity," one of the most pleasing and
satisfying pictures on the current schedule of screen entertainment.
Aside from excellent direction and acting, the picture has to its
credit dialog that is spontaneous. A fine piece of work has been
done by Arthur Richman in this respect.
"A Lady Surrenders" has two in the cast who are comparatively new
to the screenGenevieve Tobin and Rose
Hobart. Both have given such finished performances that it is safe
to predict that they will be in demand in future castings.
Miss Tobin is at her best in the serio-comic role such as she
portrays in this picture. She has a personality that is more
adaptable to the screen than to the stage. Her diction is well-nigh
The dramatic role is the more suitable for Miss Hobart and she,
like Miss Tobin, has been excellently cast in this film, She has a
full voice that records well. In appearance, she has a peculiar type
of beauty which is apparent whether the part she is playing requires
beautiful gowns or the dress of a servant.
The screen can well accept stage players of this calibre.
Conrad Nagel is the other outstanding player of this cast, and in
the opinion of this reporter, his portrayal ranks among his best. "A
Lady Surrenders" really offers only three roles of importance, and
the choice of the casting director was commendable.
"A Lady Surrenders" is unusual as all of John Erskine's stories
are. Briefly, it is the story of a man who unwittingly becomes a
bigamist when his wife, who had advised him from Paris that she was
divorcing him, resorts to the woman's prerogative and changes her
mind. Stubborn at first, the wife finally surrenders and departs for
Reno for a divorce so that her husband and his new love may live
happily ever after.
Action of the picture, due to the fine direction by John M.
Stahl, runs exceptionally smooth.
"A Lady Surrenders" ranks high as entertainment.
Jay M. Shreck, New
Exhibitor's Herald World,
Production on A Lady Surrenders began in July 1930, but Basil
Rathbone wasn't added to the cast until August 19. One issue may have been
some uncertainty about whether or not Rathbone was available. He had
accepted the lead role in The Boudoir Diplomat, the film version of
The Command to Love, in which Basil starred on Broadway.
A short time later, Rathbone was out of The Boudoir Diplomat. Rumors and conflicting
reports concerning this event circulated:
- "Basil Rathbone, who played the lead on the stage, was in, but the
studio re-decided after tests." (Variety, August 6, 1930, p.
recently walked out of the lead in 'Boudoir Diplomat' at Universal because of
story differences." (Variety, August 20, 1930, p. 61)
- Rathbone's "chief objection to the screen version of the part he
played in legit was that the thing had become a bedroom drama set in a
parlor." (Variety, August 13, 1930, p. 24)
- Ouida Rathbone "is said
to gave given so much 'advice' concerning the career of her husband, Basil Rathbone,
that this excellent actor did not land the job of leading man in the
talker." (Variety, 10 September 1930, p. 53)
Whatever the reason, Rathbone walked out on The Boudoir Diplomat,
and that left him available to take the role in A Lady Surrenders. He
wasn't eager to accept the role, however, because the part was too small.
After some negotiation, Rathbone accepted the role (Variety, August
Genevieve Tobin and Rose Hobart
Basil Rathbone and Rose Hobart
A Lady Surrenders was released on September 27 in eight big key
city theatres: Boston, Lowell, Providence, Rochester,
Chicago, Toledo, Kansas City and Minneapolis. The film was a big hit,
and was held over for three weeks in several cities. It was generally
released on October 6.
By mid-October the film was still being reported as a "smashing success"
and a "box office wonder."
Entertainment. Acting and Direction Noteworthy in an Appealing
Story. Should Click Everywhere.
Adapted from John Erskine's
"Sincerity," and aided by the splendid acting of Conrad Nagel, Rose
Hobart, Genevieve Tobin and Basil Rathbone, John M. Stahl has turned
out a picture that looks like a sure box-office bet. It is a trifle
long, but that doesn't clip the merits to any appreciable extent.
Principally, it is entertainment, good entertainment and possesses
the finer qualities of a dramatic achievement. Its story is simple,
telling of an author-wife who doesn't realize the love her husband
is trying to give her until it is too late. A Friend has awakened
the disconsolate husband to the joys of living and loving at the
same time, and he accepts this life not realizing that his wife, who
has had an affair in Paris and "thrown over," would return and
reclaim him. Realizing that the husband has unintentionally become a
bigamist through her fault and that she is not wanted, the wife
steps out of the picture, and leaves well enough alone.
The Film Daily,
September 21, 1930
Genevieve Tobin gave up the lead in the Broadway stage
production of Fifty Million Frenchman to become a featured player in
Rose Hobart also left a successful career on the stage and signed a
contract with Universal. She worked with Basil Rathbone again in Tower
of London (1939).
Conrad Nagel was a star and idol of silent films. He made a smooth
transition to sound films and continued to be popular. Conrad Nagel and
Genevieve Tobin starred together again as husband and wife in another 1930
film produced by UniversalFree
A Lady Surrenders was Director John Stahl's first talking picture for Universal.
"Pleasant Surprise of Season. A Lady Surrenders is smart and
sophisticated bit of talkie fare. One of the pleasant surprises of the
talkie season. Cleverly directed. Perfectly acted." Boston Post
is notable for its charm and taste. A woman's picture with excellent
performances by principals." San Francisco Chronicle
"Worth Seeing Twice. The movie goer who waits for good pictures has
found something well worth remembering in A Lady Surrenders. It is
a cinema dish fit to set before a king." Detroit Evening Times
"The photoplay is not too skillfully assembled and could be cut to advantage.
The lines, when they are epigrammatic, not always are happy, but on
returning to the business at hand they are usually apt.
Technically, what with the changes in lighting at moments and the recording,
which at times does not quite synchronize with the lip movements, the
production is not remarkably expert; but, due largely to Miss Tobin's charm,
Miss Hobart's apparent intelligence and Mr. Nagel's earnestness in the role
of the husband, 'A Lady Surrenders' offers a diverting few hours." New York Times,
October 4, 1930
Sort of society drama Paramount likes to do, and
now and then Metro, too, but Universalnever.
U tried and missed. Picture is not a bad production of the plot at
hand, but as a talker for any type of audience, fails from all
angles. Too stilted, slow, talky and punchless. For sophisticates it
holds more than for others, but even these will resent its
dragginess. For non-sophisticates it's too sophisticated. For
children nothing at all.
With Conrad Nagel to show them how to do
it, it's surprising how Genevieve Tobin and Rose Hobart didn't
locate the right diction for the average talker audience. Nagel's is
in between two extremes and with it he seems to have struck the
Misses Tobin and Hobart cling to the stage idea of ultra-English
pronunciation and talking style. That gets laughs instead of
interest in most picture theatres. Basil Rathbone, who really is an
Englishman, is the only one of the film's featured quartet with a
reason to talk like that, because he plays European. Miss Tobin and
Miss Hobart play Americans in this story. The only American talking
like English are Park avenue kepties, and they are terrible both
Interesting twist midway in the John Erskine yearn that deserved
a much better setting. Better talkers have been considered good on
flimsier situations than Erskine's.
A wife goes to Europe for a divorce. While there she notifies her
husband in Philadelphia by letter that the decree will be granted on
such a date. The day after that date the husband, believing himself
free, marries another woman. But the wife's reason for wanting a
divorce skipped with an actress. She changed her mind about the
Paris decree. Didn't show in court and the case went out the window.
Too late, she writes to her husband advising him of her change of
mind. The letter arrives on the day the husband returns from the
Wifey refuses to grant a divorce and clear up the situation for
the husband, and the woman he loves. Less so when the woman he loves
steps in front of an auto and wifey repents and gives in"the
lady surrenders," says she.
The playing, all but Nagel and Rathbone's, isn't good. Affair
creeps. It's doubtful whether it would seem much faster with
cutting. Ran 95 minutes, pretty long, at the Paramount, and seemed
The husband and his new wife, whom he thinks he married, and vice
versa, do so much mugging and kissing after returning from the
honeymoon that it seems they should have remained away a couple of
more weeks or years longer. Then Universal could have saved money
and audiences wouldn't snicker.
Variety, October 8, 1930
"Should Keep House Packed. A Lady Surrenders is one of finest and
best talking pictures ever made. Brilliant dialogue ... amusing if
sometimes risque situations. Flawless direction, splendid recording. One
of the REAL talkies. Splendid performance by four principals." Helen
Harris, Detroit Daily
"Beautiful clothes and sets, good acting and excellent spoken English, are
all that can be said for this rather boring story--of husbands and wives
shifting their affections with no very good reasons shown. Cheap playing-up
of sex interest, both in story and title." The Educational Screen,
"Four Stars in Smart Film. A Lady Surrenders. Very bright and
sophisticated. Quite a different story. Acting, direction and dialogue
well out of usual. Bright and breezy situations and dialogue to match. A
very delightful hour on screen. Nothing conventional, nothing dull. That
should be sufficient praise for any picture." Gordon Hillman, Boston
"Good entertainment and good acting. Don't miss this." Screenland,
"A Lady Surrenders is well-dressed, literate, entertaining,
admirably acted. Finely considered and mature playing of Rose Hobart and
quiet charm of Genevieve Tobin." Boston Herald
"A triangle play based on the novel Sincerity by
John Erskine (but avoiding some of the novel's problems), in which
the insincere and selfish wife finally realizes that her husband has
found true love and companionship in another woman. Although
somewhat melodramatic it is well constructed, logical throughout,
and excellently acted. It is good entertainment for adults." Motion Picture Reviews,
November 1930 (Reviews by The Motion Picture Committee of The Women's
"A delightfully interesting and tense story, which is a credit to
Universal." Broadway and Hollywood
Movies, December 1930
"One of most scintillating dramas of sophisticated school ... The
excellence of A Lady Surrenders is general. Faultless cast." Detroit News
One of the best pictures of the season. In
naturalness of story, dialogue, acting, and direction, picture is
Plot unrolls a drama of husband, wife, and wife's
friend. Wife does not appreciate how good a husband she has. Her
friend falls in love with him and tries to take him away. Wife balks
until she realizes her friend's great love then she "surrenders."
Stahl did splendid job of directing. Conrad Nagel and Genevieve
Tobin are a great team. Their wok is superbly natural. Rose Hobart
is great as the heavy. A fine cast includes Basil Rathbone, Edgar
Norton, Carmel Myers, Vivien Oakland, and Franklin Pangborn.
Inside Facts of Stage and Screen,
October 25, 1930
"We recommend a visit to A Lady Surrenders at once. Smart,
sophisticated story in excellent taste and superbly performed by Genevieve
Tobin, Rose Hobart, Conrad Nagel and Basil Rathbone." Boston Traveler
"A Lady Surrenders ... brilliant comedy. Scintillating,
spicy, exceptional and entertaining." Detroit Free Press
"A Lady Surrenders is a peppy film. As refreshing as an east
wind after a hot spell. Situations out of common run presented in amusing
vein. Rattling good dialogue ... acting above par ... excellent direction
... One can recommend it for entertainment." Boston Evening American
"Daring Story of Married Life. Theme of A Lady Surrenders is
forbidden love." San Francisco News
1-sheet poster, style A
Best Original High Comedy on Talking Screen. Splendidly acted by a blue
ribbon cast." San Francisco Examiner
"A Lady Surrenders a sophisticated adult picture." New York Tribune
"We saw a picture they called
Lady Surrenders, with Conrad Nagel and some other folks and two
or three women. The picture was well named, all right, for about all one
girl did was to surrender. She carried a white flag around with her and
every time Conrad saw it he ran over to her and captured her, and then
would ensure a kissing match that would start a fight between the tomcats
out in the alley." J.C. Jenkins, Exhibitor's Herald World, November
Two new finds for the sound screen, and both in one
picture! One is Genevieve Tobin and the other is Rose Hobart. Each
is well known to the stage and each fits the sound screen as though
born to the purple.
The picture, illuminated by the presence of
these two extraordinary personalitiesand
they are extraordinaryis "A Lady Surrenders," which is an added
evidence of the revival of excellence and a bid for screen
leadership on the part of Universal. Carl Laemmle, the father, can
be proud of Carl Laemmle, the son, for the production is another one
of this young genius' successes.
"A Lady Surrenders" is from the
story by John Erskine and was directed by John M. Stahl. It is a
triangletwo women and one man, the man being Conrad Nagle. In
brief, the story demonstrates the futility of fooling with the
affections of a good man and evidences the old rule that the other
girl will get him if you do.
In the cast are Basil Rathbone,
Edgar Norton, Carmel Meyers, Franklin Pangborn, Vivian Oakland and
Grace Cunard and a superb selection it is. The picture is
beautifully played, charmingly scened and an offering of the very
highest class. It opens at the Paramount Theatre on October 3 and
will be a distinct dramatic ornament to that distinctive house.
Exhibitors Daily Review and Motion Pictures Today,
September 26, 1930
"A Lady Surrenders was a pleasant drawing-room comedy,
which entertained its audiences, but left them with no lasting impression." Michael
B. Druxman, Basil Rathbone: His Life and His Films (Hardcover: South Brunswick
and New York: A.S. Barnes, 1975) Paperback edition: BearManor Media,
"Sophisticated, Clever, Amusing, Unusual. A Lady Surrenders
directed with finesse. Dialogue exceptional. Domestic comedy with daring
situations handled with such intelligence that there is nothing that might
offend." Boston Globe
3-sheet poster, style C
According to the Wikipedia entry on A Lady Surrenders, a copy of the
film exists in the Library of Congress.
If a copy also exists in the Universal Studios archives, we can hope that Universal
will one day make the film available for us to watch.
In 1944 a British film with the same title was released, but it was
a completely different story, and not a remake of this film. The 1944
film (also called Love Story) starred Margaret Lockwood and
Rose Hobart ...
Conrad Nagel ...
Carmel Myers ...
Carl Laemmle Jr.
Assoc. Producer ...
John M. Stahl
Gladys Lehman (continuity) and Arthur Richman (dialog)
Story (Sincerity) ...
Film Editors ...
William L. Cahn and Maurice Pivar
Sound Engineers ...
C. Roy Hunter and Joe Lapis
Cover of The Film Daily, September 14, 1930
Cover of The Film Daily, September 28, 1930
Cover of The Film Daily, October 5, 1930