Laura La Plante and Neil Hamilton in The Love Trap.
A dear friend of mine with whom I share a love of old movies gave me a load of pre-code and silent films earlier this year for my birthday (I really am a lucky girl). Included was William Wyler’s The Love Trap (1929).
Evelyn Todd (Laura La Plante) is a young wannabe chorine in the big city who gets fired from the chorus. Her friend Bunny (Jocelyn Lee) tells her she can make $50 "just for looking pretty" if she comes to a party being hosted by Guy Emory (Robert Ellis). She agrees and there meets the pompous Judge Harrington (Norman Trevor) before receiving the unwanted advances of Emory. She rejects him and returns home only to discover she’s been evicted, her belongings thrown out on the street. Broke and alone, Evelyn begins to cry (did I mention it also starts raining?) but all is not lost. A knight in shining armor arrives in the form of a young man named Peter (Neil Hamilton, who would go on to play Comissioner Gordon on TV's Batman) who immediately falls for Evelyn’s damsel in distress. He grabs Evelyn and loads her belongings into a series of taxis and takes her away to get married. Later, when Evelyn meets his snobbish family, she’s horrified to discover that Peter’s uncle is none other than the disapproving Judge from the party. So it’s up to Evelyn to prove that she truly loves her husband.
The Love Trap is a charming rags to riches story with a strong cast including the especially impressive La Plante. She proves to be quite likeable and seems at ease moving between lighthearted scenes and moments of heartbreak. I also love her clothes, especially her dance costume. Speaking of which, my favourite scene is the opening when Evelyn gets fired (watch it here). The director is hilarious and her reaction priceless.
The film is unique in that it's one of those rare half silent/half talkie films made during the transition in Hollywood to sound. The first half of the film is silent with a musical score and sound effects (a tapping foot, the clicking of a door) while the last 25 minutes turn into a talkie with full-on dialogue. The changeover begins with the delivery of two short lines followed by a long sequence of silence, which is effective in merging the two formats. Wyler handles it well and the sound is pretty good although I would have been just as content if it had remained silent throughout. Regardless, it's worth checking out.