AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Toy Wife
Alternate Title: Mlle. Froufrou
Director: Richard Thorpe (Dir)
Release Date:   10 Jun 1938
Production Date:   mid-Mar--27 May 1938
Duration (in mins):   93 or 96
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Luise Rainer (Gilberte Brigard, Frou Frou)  
    Melvyn Douglas (Georges Sartoris)  
    Robert Young (Andre Vallaire)  
    Barbara O'Neil (Louise Brigard)  
    H. B. Warner (Victor Brigard)  
    Alma Kruger (Madame Vallaire)  
    Libby Taylor (Suzanne)  
    Theresa Harris ("Pick")  
    Walter Kingsford (Judge Rondell)  
    Clinton Rosemond (Pompey)  
    Clarence Muse (Brutus)  
    Leonard Penn (Gaston Vincent)  
    Alan Perl (Georgie)  
    Margaret Irving (Madame DeCambri)  
    Rafaela Ottiano (Felicianne)  
    Beulah Hall Jones (Sophie)  
    George H. Reed (Gabriel)  
    Madame Sul-te-wan (Eve)  
    Hal Le Seur (First brother)  
    Tom Rutherford (Jacques)  
    Douglas McPhail (Second Brother)  
    Edward Van Sloan (Dr. Martine)  
    Albert Morin (Emile)  
    Edward Keane (Auctioneer)  
    D'Arcy Corrigan (Actor)  
    Natalie Garson (Woman in Spanish costume)  
    George Regas (Man in court)  
    Charles Albin (Priest)  
    Esther Muir (Blonde woman)  
    Priscilla Lawson (Dark woman)  
    Brent Sargent (Young man)  
    Marguerite Whitten (Rose)  
    Billy McClain (Black orchestra leader)  
    George Humbert (Italian organ grinder)  
    Henry Roquemore (Proprietor of toy shop)  
    Robert Spindola (Italian boy)  
    Barbara Bedford (Woman in doctor's office)  
    Ruby Elzy (Mulatto at fruit stand)  
    Myrtle Anderson (Therese)  
    Willa Curtis (Marguerite)  
    Gertrude Saunders (Yellow Marie)  
    Violet McDowell (Brown Marie)  
    Cora Lang (Yvonne)  
    Irene Allen (Agathe)  
    Olive Ball (Servant)  
    Geneva Williams (Servant)  
    Mary Luster (Servant)  
    Edna Franklin (Servant)  
    Charles Andrews (Servant)  
    Ernest Wilson (Servant)  
    Henry Thomas (Servant)  
    Louise Robinson (Servant)  
    Fannie Washington (Servant)  

Summary: In the early 1800's, sixteen-year-old coquette Gilberte Brigard, called "Frou Frou," returns from school in France to her Louisiana plantation. Craving excitement, Frou Frou feigns a toothache so that she can visit the dentist in New Orleans. Although her travelling chaperone, Madame Vallaire, tries to watch over Frou Frou, she sneaks away to attend a ball where she meets Madame Vallaire's wastral son Andre, with whom she is infatuated. Upon their return home, Frou Frou and her more stable older sister Louise attend Georges Sartoris, a family friend who is recovering from a knife wound received while prosecuting a white man accused of killing a young slave. Although Louise is in love with Georges, she encourages him to marry her sister when she learns that he is in love with Frou Frou. Five years later, as Georges and Frou Frou's son Georgie is celebrating his fourth birthday, Georges has become concerned that Frou Frou's youthful playfulness has not decreased during their marriage. Because he fears that their marriage will be destroyed because she is unable to run their household, he asks Louise to stay with them and take charge, telling her that Frou Frou is merely a "toy wife." While Louise runs the household, Frou Frou happily begins rehearsing an amateur play with Andre with whom she become reacquainted after a chance meeting. Soon, however, she begins to realize that Louise has supplanted her position within the household. When even little Georgie seems to prefer Louise to his mother, Frou Frou confronts Louise, who still loves Georges, but has only been trying to save Frou Frou's marriage. When Louise tells her sister why Georges wanted her to come into their home, Frou Frou decides to leave with Andre, who has asked her to elope with him. Six months later, after Madame Vallaire tells Frou Frou's father Victor that the pair has gone to New York, he dies of a heart attack. Because Frou Frou turns her inheritance over to Georgie, she and Andre are soon destitute due to his gambling debts. They then return to New Orleans after which Georges challenges Andre to a duel. Although Andre is known to be the better shot, he is killed by Georges. Frou Frou and her maid "Pick" soon are impoverished and she is weakened by pneumonia. One evening, after Frou Frou offers prayers in a small church, Louise finds her. Georges refuses to see her or allow their son to see her, until Louise makes him realize that Frou Frou only became his toy wife because that was what he really wanted. Georges finally goes to Frou Frou and brings her home where she dies after telling him that Louise loves him and will make him a good wife. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Richard Thorpe (Dir)
  Robert A. Golden (Asst dir)
Producer: Merian C. Cooper (Prod)
Writer: Zoë Akins (Scr)
Photography: Oliver T. Marsh (Photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Harry McAfee (Art dir assoc)
  Edwin B. Willis (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Elmo Veron (Film ed)
Costumes: Adrian (Women's costumes)
  Gile Steele (Men's costumes)
Music: Edward Ward (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the play Frou-frou by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy (Paris, 30 Oct 1869) and the play Frou Frou by Augustin Daly (New York, 15 Feb 1870).
Authors: Augustin Daly
  Henri Meilhac
  Ludovic Halévy

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 6/6/1938 dd/mm/yyyy LP8078 Yes

PCA NO: 4249
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Flirts
  French Americans
  New Orleans (LA)
Subjects (Minor): Children
  Heart disease
  Traveling companions
  United States--History--Social life and customs
  United States--South

Note: The film's pre-production title was Mlle. Froufrou . A written prologue following the opening credits reads: "Gone is the flag of France from Louisiana, but until the Civil War the life of its French residents in New Orleans and on the great plantations was under the old regime of France." Although Zoë Akin's screenplay was based on the French and American versions of the play Froufrou , no underlying dramatic or literary work is credited on screen. SAB notes that the screenplay was "not original" but does not mention the source which "could not be shown," according to a hand-written notation on the SAB form. Richard Thorpe had to be replaced as the director of M-G-M's The Shopworn Angel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4038) because of a scheduling conflict with this film. According to a HR news item, portions of the film were shot on location at Sherwood Forest, California. Other versions of the same story include a 1914 Thanhouser film entitled Frou Frou , directed by Lloyd Lonergan and starring Maude Fealy, and a 1917 Peerless production called A Hungry Heart directed by Emile Chautard and starring Alice Brady (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.1493 and F1.2101), a 1918 Italian film and a 1923 French film, both called Frou-Frou

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   1 Jun 38   p. 3.
Film Daily   6 Jun 38   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Mar 38   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Mar 38   p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Mar 38   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jun 38   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   2 Jun 38   p. 5.
Motion Picture Herald   30 Apr 38   p. 25.
Motion Picture Herald   4 Jun 38   p. 32.
New York Times   24 Jun 38   p. 15.
Variety   8 Jun 38   p. 17.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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