Every studio wanted a “Thin Man” series to call their own, but RKO went one step further by borrowing William Powell to star in a couple of imitations –Star of Midnight (1935) which teamed him with Ginger Rogers and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford which teamed Powell and Jean Arthur. Neither lived up to the original The Thin Man (1934), but both are fun and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford just about equals the first couple of Thin Man sequels and is better than most of the later ones. What works here — apart from a pretty clever if utterly preposterous mystery — is that Powell and Jean Arthur boast an easy chemistry. She plays the title character, while Powell is her not-very-estranged husband. He’s surgeon Lawrence Bradford who got fed up with her involving him in her amateur sleuthing (which was somehow related to her career as a mystery writer). Much like Nora (Myrna Loy) in the “Thin Man” movies, Paula Bradford is filthy rich, but this doesn’t keep her from getting at her ex for back alimony — just in order to re-establish their relationship. (Talk about first world problems!)
Being the kind of film it is, it’s not long before a murder occurs — and wouldn’t you know, the cops suspect (not unreasonably) Dr. Bradford, so it behooves him to turn into a kind of Nick Charles and solve the crime. Basically, it’s you standard 1930s comedy-mystery featuring pretty people in pretty locations solving a crime that (of course) is beyond the police. That said, it’s an enjoyable kind of movie — and a must for William Powell fans (and you know who you are).
The Asheville Film Society will screen The Ex-Mrs. Bradford Tuesday, July 29 , at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.