(On Cable TV, October 2019) Compared to 2019 romantic drama, there isn’t much to distinguish The Divorcee from countless other similar movies in which a married couple fight and we follow the woman as she deals with the aftermath. Good execution and a dash of style (including a rather good montage of her holding hands with suitors to show the passing of weeks) help a bit, but the story certainly isn’t exceptional now. But historical context is important, and The Divorcee becomes far more interesting once you focus on the fact that it comes straight from 1930. It’s a product of the early sound films era (so much so that the poster boasts “all talking!”), so don’t be surprised by the omnipresent hum of the audio nor the somewhat theatrical acting of the cast. But more significantly, it’s a novel adaptation from the pre-Code era, meaning that its sympathy and treatment of its protagonist (a quite good Norma Shearer), as she leaves her husband and navigates the shoals of her newfound freedom through multiple liaisons (without a moral consequence!), is considerably more sympathetic than anything we’d see until at least the 1960s. Consequence-free divorce was A Problem during the Hays era, and the film doesn’t consider it much of a moral stain as much as what you do when you can’t stay married. The ending gets unrealistically romantic, but there’s a happy ending for you. What’s more impressive is, well, the accessibility of the film for such an early talkie: it can be seen today as “just another story” set in the 1930s, which is considerably more than we can say from other films of the time. One curio: There’s a bit of French dialogue in the film, and it sounded to me like a cleaned up but authentic French-Canadian accent rather than the far more common European French accent. Alas, we may never correctly attribute it to anyone, as the credits for the film are typically short and the person speaking the dialogue is not fully seen.