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A Woman of Experience (1931)

Passed | | Drama, Romance | 7 August 1931 (USA)
It is 1915 in Vienna and the Great War has caused many casualties. Elsa decides to answer the patriotic appeals and help by working in the hospital, but her reputation causes her to be ... See full summary »

Director:

Harry Joe Brown

Writers:

John Farrow (adapted from the play: "The Registered Woman"), John Farrow (screen play & dialogue by) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Helen Twelvetrees ... Elsa Elsbergen
William Bakewell ... Count Karl Runyi
Lew Cody ... Captain Otto von Lichstein
Zasu Pitts ... Katie
H.B. Warner ... Major Hugh Schmidt
C. Henry Gordon ... Captain Muller
Franklin Pangborn ... Hans - a Sailor
Nance O'Neil ... Countess Runyi
George Fawcett ... A General
Bertha Mann Bertha Mann ... Red Cross Nurse
William H. Tooker William H. Tooker ... Colonel
Alfred Hickman ... Colonel
Edward Earle ... Captain Kurt von Hausen
Max Waizmann Max Waizmann ... Brunck - Otto's Servant
Ashley Buck Ashley Buck ... Heinrich - Young Officer
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Storyline

It is 1915 in Vienna and the Great War has caused many casualties. Elsa decides to answer the patriotic appeals and help by working in the hospital, but her reputation causes her to be rejected. Because of her past, military intelligence wants her to find out whether an army major is spying for the allies. She meets the major at a dinner and they agree to meet later, but before she can keep the date, she is courted by a young naval officer named Karl. Falling in love, she ignores her spying assignment, but knows that she can never tell her new love about her life. When Karl has a chance to go on a heroic mission, Elsa sends him away with a dear Karl letter. However, the paths of these three people cross again and she decides what she must do. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Love was her art...until Love found her heart. (Print Ad- Schenechtady Gazette, ((Schenectady NY)) 24 August 1931)

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 August 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Woman of Experience See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Pathé Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Equipment)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although the movie is based on a play, no production has been found. See more »

Quotes

Hans - a Sailor: Any old port in a storm.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening Title card: "Vienna 1914" See more »

Connections

Referenced in Consolation Marriage (1931) See more »

Soundtracks

The Blue Danube Waltz, Opus 314
(1867) (uncredited)
Written by Johann Strauss
Background nusic for the opening scene in Vienna
Played by the beer garden band
See more »

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User Reviews

An interesting spin on wartime romance
18 May 2015 | by jimjo1216See all my reviews

A WOMAN OF EXPERIENCE (1931) is a rather interesting pre-Code melodrama set during WWI.

Helen Twelvetrees plays a "registered woman" (prostitute) in Vienna. With the outbreak of war, she patriotically offers her services as a nurse, but is turned away. She's then recruited as a spy, assigned to use her feminine charms to keep tabs on a suspected traitor in the Austrian army. But her assignment is derailed when she unexpectedly falls in love with a naive young naval officer who sees in her his ideal of female purity.

The naval lieutenant (William Bakewell) doesn't realize that Twelvetrees is "a woman of experience", and she hasn't the heart to wake him from his delusions. Meanwhile, all this romance is sidetracking Twelvetrees from her sworn duty. She can't tell the young lieutenant that she's a prostitute and she can't tell him that she's a spy, either.

When the lieutenant volunteers for a dangerous submarine mission, Twelvetrees finally has the opportunity to play Mata Hari. She tries to break things off with the lieutenant gently with a letter, explaining that she's found someone else in his absence, but her heart belongs only to him. He's the only man who's ever treated her halfway decent, ignorant as he is of her past.

It's not a particularly notable movie, but what stands out is the story's interesting combination of socially doomed romance (the notorious woman and the young aristocrat) with wartime intrigue. Not only is a woman -- a prostitute, no less -- recruited as a spy for her country, but that same prostitute also falls in love with an innocent young man from a respectable family.

On the one hand it's "Can this woman (of experience) prove to be a valuable citizen when her country needs her?" and on the other it's "How long can this love affair last before a.) the truth about her past, b.) his disapproving mother, or c.) unforeseen tragedy get in the way?" It's like two plots woven together into one.

I also found it interesting that the officer in charge of counterintelligence was shown with an actual book of "registered women", complete with headshots and vital statistics. The officer (played by H.B. Warner) symbolically removes Twelvetrees's photo when she accepts her assignment, but later replaces it when she fails to make headway.

With early talkies you sometimes hear unusual pronunciations of everyday words, for whatever reason. What amused me with A WOMAN OF EXPERIENCE was listening to all the characters pronounce "lieutenant" as "LOOT-nint".


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