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r rated, four moon iconUnited American Video (VHS), ASIN 6301394933
Were women ever inferior to men? The Divorce of Lady X insists that females possess superior intellect to compensate for any lack of physical strength when dealing with the larger, if not the smarter, of the species. Five characters, including two couples, find themselves star-crossed, racing 'round London to set marriage right in this romantic comedy. Who could be more heart-pounding than a young Olivier, his career flying out the window as he pursues a judge's grand-daughter? The judge, of course, identifies with the hero, who makes as much of a buffoon of himself as the girl's grandfather probably once did. Laughter abounds in this film to such an extent that even the music sounds funny.

DVD: The Divorce of lady XAs a barrister convinced he is the cause of his new sweetheart's imminent divorce, Olivier stalls and stammers. His voice cracks. His knack for pratfalls, wild gestures, and sudden inspirations will stun anyone only familiar with the theatrical giant who made history with his performances of Hamlet and Othello. Yet the imaginative freedom remains consistent. Olivier does whatever his character requires as naturally as if his reputation rested solely on comedy. His genius shines in moments of shy embarrassment, enraptured infatuation, and smug overconfidence. How can such an educated professional be so completely wrong in judging the opposite sex?

The film, originally released in 1938, also reveals Merle Oberon at her best. Insinuating herself into Olivier's bedroom, bed, and even his morning eggs, she still manages to retain the glow of innocence. How can one young woman exercise so much power over a man accustomed to facing down the worst and best of English society in the court room? The answer may be talent; it may be love, or it just may be an inherent ability in the female sex to relish wit, disguise, and intrigue. This movie returns its audience to the favorite schemes of Shakespeare: missed clues, mistaken identities, and the human character turned completely upside down.

Only the story's original author, Gilbert Wakefield, could conceive of a work that promises divorce but celebrates marriage. And only Ralph Richardson, playing the story's battered cuckold, could recommend matrimony convincingly to his lawyer -- the co-defendant in a case which does not exist. There is only one way to appreciate this plot: Enjoy the film -- and laugh yourself happy! Meanwhile, relish the dazzling scenes from a past when parties took place at castles and people actually dressed like movie stars. The office sets alone appear to be stolen from paintings. McDonald's, eat your heart out!

Meg Curtis

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