Living on Velvet

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Original title Living on Velvet
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1935
length 80 minutes
Director Frank Borzage
script Jerry Wald
Julius Epstein
production Frank Borzage for Warner Brothers
music Bernhard Kaun
Heinz Roemheld
camera Sid Hickox
cut William Holmes

Living on Velvet is a 1935 American film directed by Frank Borzage with Kay Francis in the lead role.


Amy is a young, rich woman who is looking for great love. One day she meets Terrence Parker at a party. He's a charming man on the outside, but he has a dark secret. His parents and sister were killed in a plane crash he caused. Amy and Terry get married and live quite happily at first, but soon Terrence's feelings of guilt drive him further and further into emotional isolation. Only a serious car accident, which Terrence survived only by luck, shows him that he has to let the past rest, and he finally finds happiness and contentment with Amy.


Kay Francis had joined Warner Brothers from Paramount in 1932 and in just a few years had become the studio's biggest female star. Her films were mostly routine productions that presented Francis as a woman who gets through all kinds of problems with tears in her eyes. The never-ending suffering in their films was covered with a high degree of glamor. Her success with a predominantly female audience was based on her ability to play even sentimental and implausible stories with self-confidence and integrity. In addition, she had a reputation for being one of the best-dressed women in America. Living on Velvet is a prime example of the kind of films that made Kay Francis a star at matinee shows, those theatrical screenings that were specially set for housewives in the early afternoon to give female audiences the opportunity to get before school closes and possible hairdresser appointments to go to the cinema quickly. In addition, the film is a good example of Frank Borzage's storytelling , whose specialty was sentimental, but never trivial, love stories. This quality, which is particularly evident in Borzage's early films such as Das Glück in der Mansarde , for which Janet Gaynor won an Oscar for best actress in 1929 and Man's Castle from 1933 with Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young , is also present in Living on Velvet . The character of George Brent is at first so busy with his guilt and the urge to self-destruction that he can not relate to his wife. Only under the impression of the risk of his own death in an accident is he able to properly understand the quality of the feelings his wife expresses towards him. In terms of its constellation, the film depicts two lonely people fighting for a common future, a typical Frank Borzage film. The film historian Hervé Dumont summed up the director's message as follows.

“[The films] depict nothing more than the emergence of an affection, the search for authenticity, an inner career. The poet of loving intimacy is born and his material has been found: a man and a woman, both seemingly hopeless loners, outsiders, even deserters, overcome their egocentric drives in order to enhance each other in the course of several life tests - whether war, disease or poverty . They are strengthened by their love for one another. Unrestricted, emphatically non-bourgeois love, which is at the same time the object and subject of Borzage's entire filmography and, depending on the story, transcends time, space, possibly death. "

At one point the film drives a rather unsubtle joke with Kay Francis and her problems with the pronunciation of the letter 'r', which she mostly sounded like a 'w'. Brent, who met Francis at the party, quickly starts a conversation with her and asks her to just say something, since he likes her voice.

You: Thirty days hath September, Apwil.
He: Apwil! Apwil? Hmm I see. Repeat after me please. Say "Around the ragged rocks ran the ragged rascals".
You: Awound the wagged wocks the wagged wascals wan. There! You see? Now you know everything.

There is also a line of dialogue that, despite the strict censorship regulations, clearly refers to homosexuality, when a female party guest says to another guest:

"I just read a really interesting book. It's called the Well of Solitude ."

Radclyffe Hall's book is considered a classic in lesbian literature. The film was a huge financial success and the two main actors shot again immediately afterwards under the direction of Frank Borzage Stranded .


The reviews were benevolent.

The New York Times reported in a friendly tone:

"The portrayal of Mr. Brent is excellent, and Miss Francis not only shows off a whole collection of new clothes (which met with great approval from the female audience) but also shows a surprising talent for comedy, especially at the beginning of the film."

Theatrical release

Production costs were just $ 276,000. In the US, the film grossed $ 334,000, with an additional $ 170,000 from abroad. The end result was a total of $ 504,000.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. see essay on
  2. Mr. Brent's performance is excellent, and Miss Francis displays not merely a new collection of gowns (which had the feminine members of the audience cooing) but a somewhat surprising talent for comedy in the earlier sequences.