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One Way Passage (1932)

Before he teamed with Myrna Loy to play the perfect sophisticated couple in the Thin Man series at MGM, William Powell was paired with another glamorous leading lady, Kay Francis. They made six films together—four at Paramount and two at Warner Bros.—all just as sophisticated but with a risqué pre-Code edge, to boot. Their last and best was this shipboard romance.

Dying heiress Francis meets condemned murderer Powell in a Hong Kong bar. The attraction is tangible and only intensifies when they end up on the same luxury liner. With the help of two con artist friends, Frank McHugh and Aline MacMahon, he manages to give his police escort the slip long enough to spend a romantic night with Francis in Hawaii, before they return to harsh reality.

One Way Passage won an Oscar for Robert Lord’s original story, though a lot of the film’s success can be credited to director Tay Garnett, an expert at keeping even the most lugubrious story moving, and cowriter Wilson Mizner, a former con artist believed to have contribute much of the comic relief supplied by McHugh and MacMahon. The film was Powell and Francis’s biggest hit, but there was little chance of a rematch (aside from a radio version of the script in 1939). Powell was unhappy at Warner Bros. and soon left for MGM, where he became a major star.

d. Tay Garnett, 68 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics

Restored by Warner Bros. in collaboration with the Film Foundation