Well, here it is...the ONLY Franchot film I actually dislike. Out of the 63 FT movies I've watched, I love or really like all but this one. Whenever anyone asks what my favorite Tone film is, I typically list about 20 titles before I realize I'm going too far. Sadly, Without Honor will never make it on that list.
Laraine Day (whose performances I typically enjoy) is totally crazy in this movie! Despite the poster's promise of three passionate love affairs and loads of drama, the film's plot was mostly thin and boring to me. Franchot makes the best out of a too small part, but isn't given much to work with dialogue or action-wise.
Jane Bandle (Laraine Day) is an unfulfilled housewife who has been involved in an affair with married man Dennis Williams (Franchot Tone). She is surprised (and in her unglamorous housedress and unstyled hair, a bit embarrassed by her appearance) when Dennis parks his car outside the home she shares with her husband Fred (Bruce Bennett) and knocks on her door. Jane abandons the dinner she is preparing to talk with her lover and is blindsided when he ends their relationship.
Dennis believes Jane's husband has discovered their affair and wants to end it immediately to avoid scandal and his family's shame. When Jane calls him out on how detached he was from his family before, Dennis calmly admits (in that wonderful rich, restrained voice of Franchot's) that he knows it is "shabby" of him to break his promises to her.
Jane is devastated by his turn of affection and threatens to kill herself with the kabob skewer on the counter. (I've watched this scene a few times and I always wonder why she picks up the skewer when there's a knife right beside it?) A concerned Dennis tries to grab the skewer from her, but Jane wrestles with him until Dennis falls...and is pierced by the skewer. He stumbles into the pantry and collapses. Horrified that she's murdered him, Jane doesn't attempt to help Dennis, just closes the pantry door.
And that's Franchot's performance. Over and done in the first 10 minutes. I assumed that since he was immediately killed, Dennis would come back in the form of flashbacks. I waited through long scenes of Laraine Day and Dane Clark overacting (at least, to me) with overdramatic music in the background. You see, once Dennis is tucked away in the closet, Dane Clark appears as Laraine Day's brother-in-law. As Bill Bandle, Dane Clark is a conniving, manipulative, and apparently sexually frustrated man who wants to ruin Jane (who once snubbed him), her marriage, and her reputation. We find out that it is Bill who has set up this entire day. Jane's husband Fred knows nothing of her indiscretions, but Bill does. Bill's intervened and set up a meeting to humiliate Jane in front of her husband and Dennis and his wife.
It's an interesting premise with interesting actors (Agnes Moorehead is Dennis's wife), but failed to excite me. There is some suspense to the film, too. We know that Dennis is in the pantry while everyone in the film is waiting for him to arrive. We do not know, however, whether he has truly been fatally injured or not. If I had been allowed a view into Dennis and Jane's romance or Fred and Jane's marriage, I could've been more invested in the story.
My dislike for Without Honor is not based on Franchot's lack of screentime. There are quite a few other films in which Franchot's roles are brief. Stage Mother, The Gorgeous Hussy, and No More Ladies come to mind and I enjoy those films! And I do, believe it or not, watch films that Franchot is not featured in at all! :) With or without Franchot, this movie was just a flop for me. I feel like so many opportunities were lost. Why didn't the fabulous Agnes Moorehead and Franchot share any scenes together? Why was the usually likeable Laraine Day so irritating and her hair so unflattering? Why did we not get enough backstory to form bonds with these characters?