Warner Archive Review: ‘Woman Wanted’ Starring Maureen O’Sullivan & Joel McCrea

Outside the Tarzan movies and the fact she is Mia Farrow’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan is barely known today. However, she was a charming actress, with an ability to play comedy and drama within even the same scene. That skill is on display in Woman Wanted, a 1935 MGM B-movie in which she is paired with Joel McCrea.

MGM, the studio of classy title cards, even for B-movies.

After 1934’s Hide-Out with Robert Montgomery, MGM must have liked seeing O’Sullivan on the run with a leading man. In Woman Wanted, she is on the run after being wrongly convicted of a murder, and McCrea plays a playboy lawyer who believes her. The details of the murder are murky and meaningless – you just have to know she didn’t do it and was framed by mobsters – so it just provides the gas to get this 67-minute engine started.

Woman Wanted was directed by George B. Seitz, who directed MGM’s Andy Hardy movies, and written by Leonard Fields and David Silverstein, from a story by Wilson Collison. But the real behind-the-scenes star of this film is cinematographer Charles G. Clarke (Miracle on 34th Street, Stars and Stripes Forever). Working with a clearly minuscule budget, Clarke creates some gorgeous images, especially during the film’s dock-set climax. He also uses the camera to make O’Sullivan look impossibly beautiful in her close-ups.

The acting is also top-shelf in Woman Wanted. If MGM was just making this to fill up theater programming, no one told McCrae or O’Sullivan. Both leads give charming, funny and witty performances that find the humor even in the most dire situations. The cast is rounded out by wonderful character actors, with the immortally slimy Louis Calhern as the head mob boss and Robert Greig as the side-splitting butler Peedles.

The DVD includes a short, two-minute trailer from the film’s original release. I would strongly recommend not watching it before seeing the movie because it even includes the last shot and other details best left as surprises.

Woman Wanted‘s goal is to be entertaining and it passes that test with an A+. It certainly is not one of MGM’s classy, glamorous A-pictures, and never aspires to be. It is just a fun, romantic comedy with a little gang violence peppered in. This is the perfect kind of Warner Archive release, and one of my all time favorite discoveries courtesy of the label.

“Nobody’s perfect”… whoops, wrong movie.

Thanks to Warner Archive for providing this disc to review! It is now available at wbshop.com/warnerarchive

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