One Way Passage (1932)

“I know now what I want: I want to crowd all the intense, beautiful happiness possible into what life I’ve got left!”

Synopsis:
When a condemned convict (William Powell) falls in love with a dying woman (Kay Francis) on board a cruise ship, his desire to escape from the clutches of his captor (Warren Hymer) suddenly becomes more complicated.

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Review:
Glamorous Kay Francis was one of the most popular and highly paid stars in early Hollywood, but because she made so few memorable films, she’s largely forgotten by movie buffs today. Along with her supporting role in Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise (1932), she’s probably best known for this three-hankie shipboard romance, which succeeds in large part due to the genuine chemistry between the two leads. Equally enjoyable is Aline McMahon as a kind-hearted con woman posing as a countess; unfortunately, her sidekick “Skippy” (Frank McHugh) — with perhaps one of the most annoyingly affected laughs ever heard on-screen — is nothing short of irritating. Indeed, whenever the film slides into overt comedy, the story falls flat — yet while One Way Passage can’t rightfully be called a classic, it remains worth a look simply to see Francis in her prime.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • William Powell and Kay Francis as the star-crossed lovers (Peary nominates them both for Alternate Oscars)
    One Way Passage Lovers
  • Aline McMahon as “Countess Barilhaus”

Must See?
Yes, simply to see Francis in one of her most memorable films. Listed as a film with historical importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “One Way Passage (1932)”

  1. Not a must. First viewing.

    When a film (such as this) is a mere 67 minutes, it has a responsibility to pack a wallop – and this film doesn’t. For what it is, it’s not a bad film – but it feels like the kind which, decades ago, would have been on a double-bill with a better one.

    ‘OWP’ has a unique love interest angle for the leads – but, as charming as she is, I don’t feel Francis is given much to do outside of her tragic aura. Powell’s role is the kind he could do in his sleep. I’m much more intrigued by McMahon’s supporting role (nice to see this in-the-wings performer get to strut her stuff) in an equally surprising secondary love story with Hymer. (Agreed: McHugh is on the annoying side, tho it isn’t his laugh that bothers me; it’s the one-note character.)

    Watchable, a bit of a mish-mosh ultimately – and it ends on a spooky note (not that surprising).

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