Faithless (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Feb 14, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Faithless (Blu-ray Review)


Harry Beaumont

Release Date(s)

1932 (January 30, 2024)


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Warner Archive Collection)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: B-

Faithless (Blu-ray)

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Tallulah Bankhead is largely unfamiliar to modern audiences, as most of her career was spent on the stage. Her film output was sporadic at best, and she’s best known for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. Many of her stage roles, such as those in Jezebel, Dark Victory and The Little Foxes, went to Bette Davis in their film adaptations. Late in 1932, she starred in the melodrama Faithless as an heiress who falls on hard times after the 1929 stock market crash.

Carol Morgan (Bankhead), the spoiled daughter of a successful New York banker, has lived in luxury and never worked a day in her life. Even though she’s been told the bank has been losing money, she refuses to cut down on expenses, and continues employing a houseful of servants and giving lavish parties. She meets handsome, well-dressed, hard-working advertising manager Bill Wade (Robert Montgomery), and the two have instant chemistry. They fall in love, but Bill’s not in the same social or financial strata as Carol. He proposes to her on the condition that they live on his salary in a place he can afford. Carol is loath to give up her palatial home, servants, and pampered lifestyle, so she refuses, preferring a clandestine affair to marriage.

When the bank fails, Carol is reduced to sponging off her society friends, but this lifeline eventually cuts off and she agrees to be the mistress of the wealthy, married Mr. Blainey (Hugh Herbert). Ultimately disgusted by the arrangement, she decides that being penniless and homeless is preferable to being a handy side dish for a rich man. Her attempts to secure even a meager job fail. Reconnecting with Bill, who’s lost his advertising job and is now a truck driver, Carol marries him. Soon after, however, Bill suffers an accident that renders him unable to work. It’s up to Carol to pay for a doctor and medicine and earn enough money to see them through his recuperation. Desperate, she turns to prostitution.

The subject matter was pretty racy in this pre-Code tale. Had the film been made a couple of years later, the elements of unmarried sex, marital infidelity, and prostitution would probably not have made it into the script.

Based on the stage play Tinfoil by Mildred Cram, the screenplay by Carey Wilson moves along briskly and allows Bankhead to range from elegant luxury to increasing desperation to rock-bottom misery. Initially, floating from one room in her mansion to another in stylish gowns, her Carol is oblivious to reality and never accepts that the funding for her lifestyle will end. She has some convincing scenes as her character transitions from wealthy heiress to destitute woman and harsh truth finally sets in. This is a woman who has never had to worry about work, food, housing, or supporting herself, and she tries her best to accommodate a new reality.

Montgomery has the misfortune of playing the too-good-to-be-true male lead. Always hustling to find work after losing job after job through no fault of his own, his Bill is the opposite of Carol. Whereas her first instinct is to contrive ways to sustain her lifestyle, his is to accept and adapt. When the accident confines him to bed, the roles are reversed.

Hugh Herbert, usually cast in comedic roles, is miscast as Blainey. He comes off too fatherly and looks as if he’s about to deliver a one-liner or do a pratfall. He infuses no villainy or even seductiveness into the role, and isn’t believable as a scoundrel who would go behind his wife’s back to enjoy an extramarital affair.

The film oozes melodrama and it’s only Bankhead’s performance that saves it. In the early scenes, she conveys carefree hedonism with her confident walk, head held high, and a smile that charms. Later, when she can no longer smile, huddles against the bitter cold and tries to sustain herself on a single bowl of soup, Bankhead gives Carol a kind of heroism and empathy.

Faithless was shot by director of photography Oliver T. Marsh on black & white 35 mm film with spherical lenses and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The high definition master was sourced from a 4K scan of preservation elements. As in many previous Warner Archive releases of older films, the picture quality is nearly pristine, with well delineated detail in the luxurious sets in the early part of the film. There are no distracting surface imperfections such as embedded dirt specks, scratches, or emulsion clouding.

The soundtrack is English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an available option. The original sound mix is by Western Electric Sound System. Dialogue is clear and distinct. In scenes set outdoors but shot in the studio, a slight echo is heard. William Axt’s music for the opening credits has a sort of grandeur, but the balance of the film relies on undistinguished stock music.

Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release from Warner Archive include the following vintage Vitaphone short subjects:

  • Rambling Round Radio Row #1B (11:02)
  • The Trans-Atlantic Mystery (21:41)
  • The Symphonic Murder Mystery (21:29)

Rambling Round Radio Row #1B – In this 1934 short, A postal carrier on Radio Row delivers letters to several performers, including Bonnie Poe, one of the Betty Boop girls, who sings Puddin’ Head Jones. Vera Van sings Blue Hours, Ramon & Rosita dance to Moonlight Memory, and George Jessel performs a telephone comedy monologue (decades before Bob Newhart made the phone a feature of his routines).

The Trans-Atlantic Mystery – Donald Meek stars as forensic expert Dr. Amos Crabtree in this 1932 short based on a story by S.S. Van Dine. Two jewel thieves hope to fence the stolen Stanhope diamonds in New York for $150,000. They have a plan to smuggle the gems past customs by using a journalist as an accomplice but they’re double-crossed and killed before reaching New York. John Hamilton, Betty Pierce, and Ray Collins co-star.

The Symphonic Murder Mystery – Inspector Carr (John Hamilton) gets a note from someone saying there will be a murder at the symphony that night. Dr. Crabtree (Donald Meek) shows up and asks to tag along to the symphony while the police stand around waiting for the murder to happen. A cellist drops dead of a gunshot wound while performing, and later the only person to have a tangible motive is found dead in his locked office, apparently a suicide. Dr. Crabtree figures out whodunit in this 1932 short.

The title Faithless has a double meaning. It refers to Carol’s cheating on Bill, but it also might describe the loss of faith in established institutions. The social order has repeatedly rejected and degraded Carol and Bill, offering hopes and cruelly dashing them. The film is moralistic and somewhat heavy-handed in its theme, but is a chance to see Tallulah Bankhead in one of her earliest screen roles.

- Dennis Seuling