Director: Dorothy Arzner
Screenplay: Austin Parker and Gertrude Purcell
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Fredric March, Monroe Worsley, Charles (as Charlie) Ruggles, Ginger Rogers
Country: USA
Running time: 76 min
Year: 1931
BBFC certificate: PG

Dorothy Arzner was a pioneering female film director; her career covered the silent and sound eras (including her being the first woman to direct a sound film) and a stint in a military film unit during the Second World War. Overall, she made 20 feature films between the late 1920s and early 1940s, including numerous classics, some of which have already received the Blu-ray treatment. Indicator’s well curated edition of Honor Among Lovers includes two shorts from her time in a military film unit, alongside the main feature.

Honor Among Lovers was released in 1931 and is a starry affair: Claudette Colbert, Fredric March and Ginger Rogers head-up the cast, the latter in an early role. The story is effectively a love triangle: personal secretary Julia Traybor (Colbert) is pursued by her boss, Wall Street trader, Jerry Stafford (March), who fires her when she turns down his advances, to instead marry her fiancé Philip Craig (Oswley). Jerry falls in love again with Julia when they meet later and the interplay between the three leaves each having to make some big decisions.

It all starts quite breezy but the melodrama of the plot reaches fever-pitch as the film progresses; a crime occurs, which leads to misinformation and accusations and takes the story in a different direction, away from a love triangle, and almost into a crime picture. There’s a definite change in tone, the lighter opening making way for more drama and near tears, but it is so well handled by Arzner, the crew and cast that it doesn’t feel out of place.

I have a particular fondness for films from the 1930s and 1940s, and have enjoyed the other Arzner films I’ve seen so far (1932’s Merrily We Go to Hell, and 1940’s Dance, Girl, Dance), and Honor Among Lovers was no different. It’s a wonderful film that feels ahead of its time with a strong female lead, despite a plot which feels similar to many other films from the era.

Arzner’s excellent direction and the performances are no doubt two of the main reasons for its success, as is the brilliant script, and together they help it to rise above similar fare from the Thirties. The script is filled with some great dialogue, and the wordplay between Julia and Jerry, in particular, is fantastic, delivered with gusto by Colbert and March.

Colbert, outstanding in so many films from this era, is on top form again, but so is the whole cast, including Rogers, who had only had a handful of other credits to her name by this point, but would go on to an outstanding career.

I really enjoyed Honor Among Lovers; its direction, performances and script all aligning to leave a memorable impression. A lot is packed into the brisk runtime and not a scene is wasted, everything coming together to either advance the plot or underline the motivations of the characters.


Honor Among Lovers was released by Powerhouse Films on their Indicator label on 18th December 2023. The print is a 2017 restoration from a 4K scan. Detail is rich and it’s great to see a modern restoration of this film, but the print does show elements of damage throughout. I had no issues with the mono audio; music and dialogue are crystal clear.


2017 restoration from a 4K scan

Original mono audio

Audio commentary with academic and curator Eloise Ross (2023)

George Folsey Oral History (1958, 130 mins): rare archival audio recording of the cinematographer in conversation with George Pratt

Sugar and Spice (2023, 13 mins): academic Lucy Bolton assesses the early career of the much-loved performer Ginger Rogers

Hail and Farewell! (1943, 7 mins): short documentary film on achievements of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), produced during Dorothy Arzner’s time as director and supervisor with the military branch

To the Ladies (1944, 15 mins): dramatised recruitment film for the Women’s Army Corps, formerly the WAAC, produced during Arzner’s time at the military film unit

Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials

New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Limited edition exclusive 44-page booklet with a new essay by Pamela Hutchinson, an account of the film’s production using archival interviews and articles, extracts from an archival interview with Dorothy Arzner, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Anthony Nield on Arzner’s films for the WAAC, and film credits

UK premiere on Blu-ray

Limited edition of 3,000 copies for the UK

The fantastic commentary from Australian academic and curator Eloise Ross highlights how the film is often not included in appraisals of Arzner’s work, focuses on the cast and script, and the feminist aspects of the film and the director’s work. Ross provides informative and insightful comments on the cinematography, and there are very few pauses during its duration. Her take on the movie and its place in Arzner’s filmography chimed with my views. It’s a commentary that is well worth a listen.

The oral history with cinematographer George Folsey is fabulous. Folsey gave a great interview, providing so much information and background on his career. There’s a strong start looking at his introduction to the movies, before moving on to the films he worked on and his recollections of these. It runs for over two hours, over a blank screen. Fascinating stuff.

Lucy Bolton’s 13-minute piece looks at the performance of Ginger Rogers in the film, an early role for the star who would, amongst many other achievements, go on to a highly acclaimed and timeless silver screen partnership with Fred Astaire. Bolton provides an overview of the childhood of Rogers and her family life, the origins of her nickname Ginger, how she got into showbiz and her early performances.  It includes archival images of Rogers’ family and some of the people in her life. It’s a really good overview of the actor.

The image gallery contains just under 30 production stills and promotional artwork.

Hail and Farewell!, produced during Arzner’s time as director and supervisor with the military Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), is a wonderful inclusion. The seven-minute short contains rousing speeches about the achievements of WAAC, against a backdrop of footage of some of the roles members of the corps played. 

Equally welcome is To the Ladies. This 15-minute short is a recruitment film shot for the Women’s Army Corps, which the WAAC became. This is narrated over scenes of women performing their duties as part of the corps and outlining the importance they played during the war.

The 44-page booklet opens with a typically excellent, well-researched essay by Pamela Hutchinson. Elsewhere, the extracts of an archival interview with Arzner are welcome, as are the contemporary critical responses. Nield’s piece on Arzner’s films for the WAAC is great too, looking at both the shorts and why they, and not others from the film unit, were chosen for this release, and a few snippets about a short by director James Whale included on the Indicator release of The Kiss Before the Mirror.

In closing, Indicator’s release of Honor Among Lovers is excellent, with a restored print (that despite some blemishes is fine throughout), rich, well chosen and insightful on-disc extras, and an information-packed booklet. 


Honor Among Lovers - Indicator
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Passionate about film, from the silents to the present day and everything in between, particularly 80s blockbusters, cult movies and Asian cinema.

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