VenueWalter Reade Theater
Irving Thalberg bought the rights to Private Lives for M-G-M, resulting in this first sound film version of a Coward play. Coward and Gertrude Lawrence had hoped to repeat their London and New York stage triumph as ex-spouses who find themselves in adjoining hotel rooms while on honeymoon with their new partners, but it was not to be. Thalberg had bought the property specifically for his wife, Norma Shearer, to star in—which she did, alongside Robert Montgomery. At the first screening, Montgomery slipped into Coward’s hand an expensive watch with his initials on it. “This is to prevent you from saying what you really think of my performance.” In fact, Coward thought the film had stayed as close to the play as the Hayes Code would allow. It also stayed close to the physicality. In their fight scene, Shearer punched Montgomery so hard she knocked him through a screen. Director Sidney Franklin liked the footage so much he kept it in the picture.