The Lady in Question (1940) Charles Vidor
If you thought Gilda (1946) was the first time Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth worked together onscreen, you’d be wrong. The Lady in Question was the first of five films they’d make together (the other three being The Loves of Carmen , Affair in Trinidad  and The Money Trap ). Charles Vidor, of course, also directed Ford and Hayworth in Gilda.
The Lady in Question is a remake of the 1937 French comedy Gribouille (Heart of Paris or The Meddler) directed by Marc Allégret and featuring Michèle Morgan in her first major screen appearance. The Lady in Question takes place in Paris where a good-natured bicycle shop owner named Andre Morestan (Brian Aherne, left) is obsessed with the pride that comes from exercising his civic responsibility as a man called to jury duty. When the call comes, Morestan becomes obsessed with the case: a young woman named Natalie Roguin (Rita Hayworth) is accused of murdering her lover.
It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you that Natalie is acquitted. Soon afterward, Morestan offers Natalie a job at his shop as well as room and board in his house, but no one in his family knows Natalie as an accused murderer. Morestan has told them all that she’s the daughter of one of his former classmates.
His intentions are honorable and good, yet there’s quite a few people at home Morestan will have to keep in the dark: his wife (Irene Rich), son Pierre (Glenn Ford), daughter François (Evelyn Keyes), her fiancé (Edward Norris), as well as the locals who frequent his shop. Plus Natalie and Pierre seem to be growing quite fond of each other. Hmmm….
Aherne is quite charming as the shop owner and the film is an enjoyable venture, but it’s difficult to combine courtroom drama with light comedy; the two just don’t mix well. The comedic touches win out, but the courtroom scenes are not without intensity. There’s a nice scene as the jury deliberates, a scene that reminds me of a larger moment from 12 Angry Men, which came about 17 years later. (One of the best lines in the film comes from one of the jurors talking about Natalie: “She comes from a theatrical family and you know what that means!”)
Ford and Hayworth here are nothing like you’ll see them in Gilda. Or maybe it’s better to think of them as young idealists in The Lady in Question who’ve become jaded and wise to the ways of the world by the time Gilda rolls around. It’s a nice, light afternoon venture that might even become one of your favorite “comfort” movies. The film is available on DVD from the Sony Choice Collection.
Photos: Mike’s Take on the Movies, Rare Film, TCM, IMDB