Produced and Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: April 19, 1930
Featured cast: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Chester Morris, Conrad Nagel
Producer: Paul Bern
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Screenwriters: Nick Grindé, Zelda Sears (treatments); John Meehan (adaptation)
Source: Ex-Wife, a novel by Ursula Parrott
Cinematographer: Norbert Brodine
When a husband has an affair, his self-possessed wife goes out "to balance accounts."
“Norma Shearer will start work in the film version of The High Road, the Fredrick Lonsdale play, soon
after the first of the year under the direction of Sidney Franklin.”
- “Norma Shearer in High Road,” The Film Daily, December 10, 1929
NOTE: In order to film Ursula Parrott’s Ex-Wife, a forbidden novel, Irving Thalberg was forced to negotiate for months with Will Hays and Jason Joy of the Studio Relations Committee. Unable to announce this as a forthcoming Shearer project (retitled The Divorcee), Thalberg named The High Road. Not until February 1930, when The Divorcee was in production, did he confirm the truth. The deal he had struck with the SRC forbade mention of the novel Ex-Wife as its source, but no one was fooled (see reviews below).
“M-G-M has taken Ursula Parrot’s Ex-Wife and made an intelligent, gripping dramatic picture out of it. From the dialogue which, for the greater part is crisp, trenchant and pointed, to the photography which is good throughout, the producers have achieved a first-rate reproduction of some of the aspects of modem life, as it is for a few of us, and some as it is for almost all of us.”
- Douglas Fox, Exhibitor’s Herald-World, April 12, 1930
“They banned the book Ex-Wife from the screen. But it was quite all right to film The Divorcee and the strange thing is that whereas the book, although it sold hugely, was not what you might call a classic, the picture is. This has turned out to be a problem piece, as neat an essay on marital unfaithfulness as has been made in Hollywood. It sets Norma Shearer at the very top of the acting class. You won’t forget this picture, and you’ll undoubtedly go home and have a good long talk with your spouse. But more important, you’ll be amused and held spellbound until the last reel. Don’t miss it.”
- Photoplay, June 1930
“Film Daily congratulates Norma Shearer for a skillful, dramatically powerful and convincing performance in M-G-M’s The Divorcee.”
- Film Daily, April 28, 1930
“M-G-M had two pictures lined up for me. The first was to be made from the book Ex-Wife, which was creating quite a sensation. The second was from a delightful comedy Let Us Be Gay, which was having a successful run on Broadway. I had been trained to believe that work comes first, but at that moment God seemed to take over. Just as I was about to start the first picture, I discovered that I was going to have a baby. The grave question was would I be able to perform efficiently in two pictures which might take four months. And how was I going to look to the camera? Irving and I agreed that I should chance it. And I must confess that I never felt better in my life as I sailed through five months of production.”
- Norma Shearer, Memoir Notes
The Divorcee cost $341,000 and grossed $1,218,000.
(These figures have not been adjusted for inflation nor do they include profits from reissues, television syndication, and home entertainment formats.)