The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1951 comedy "The Law and the Lady"completes such releases of the three film adaptations of the Frederick Lonsdale play "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney." "Law" can be considered "Cheney Begins" in that it tells the origin story, which includes exposition on the motivation for beginning a life of crime, of the titular socialite bandit.
As an aside, Unreal TV has reviewed the 1929 Norma Shearer version and posted thoughts regarding the 1937 Joan Crawford film.
"Law" is particularly noteworthy for the aforementioned successful exploration of the genesis of the central con artist/thief of the tale and for providing star Greer Garson a chance to show that her talent extends beyond dramatic roles, such as the titular character in the uber-uber-classic "Mrs. Miniver." This portrayal shows that Garson can play anything.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, perfectly showcases the perfection of Garson in her role and additionally conveys the fun spirit of the film.
"Law" opens with Garson being Jane Hoskins, a maid at the home of the respectable brother of neer-do-well Nigel Duxbury. Nigel arriving on the scene quickly results in he and Hoskins commencing the long-time personal and professional relationship that the Fay Cheyney/Charles relationship represents in the other films.
The two-person worldwide non-violent crime spree in which Hoskins, who is representing herself as Lady Loverly, and Duxbury engage ultimately brings them to San Francisco. The social-climbing aspirations, which out-pace even those of the titular character in the recently reviewed Archive title "Alice Adams," of nouveau riche Julia Wortin soon has Hoskins ensconced as a guest in her palatial home and Duxbury employed there as a butler.
The same wonderful sense of casting that has Greer Garson playing the sophisticated Loverly has Marjorie Main of the "Ma and Pa Kettle" films expertly poortraying the loud and brassy Julia, Natalie Schafer of "Gilligan's Island" as a lady who lunches, and Hayden Rorke of "I Dream of Jeannie" playing a guest with a romantic interest in Loverly. The "simply mahvelous" Fernando Lamas (who looks very much like his son Lorenzo of "Falcon Crest") plays a dashing rival for the heart of our heroine.
Similar to the earlier film versions of "Cheney," the weekend party that brings the merry band described above to the home of Julia provides Hoskins temptation in the form of a necklace that Julia owns. "Law" further follows the model of the earlier adaptations in having complications arise regarding the planned theft of that jewelry.
The conclusion is a wonderful mix of a resolution that parallels the endings in the other films and a new twist that expands on the even closer relationship that Hoskins and Duxbury share than do Cheney and Charles in the other films.
These variations prompts prompt thoughts of both vive le difference and of putting the "Law" into your own hands. Giving into this temptation will not prompt any regrets.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Law" or the "Cheyney" films is strongly encouraged to email me. Connecting on Twitter via @tvdvdguy is another option.