The old bromide about joining the Foreign Legion to "forget," so often parodied by such comedians as Laurel and Hardy, was played straight in 1931's Friends and Lovers. A very young Laurence Olivier plays Lt. Nichols, who has retreated to the desert to get over his affair with Alva Sangrito (Lily Damita). Nichols is befriended by another of Alva's victims, Captain Roberts (Adolphe Menjou). Once back in England, however, the two castaway lovers find themselves rivals once more, leading to a potentially deadly payoff. Erich von Stroheim is delightful in a depraved sort of way as Lily Damita's cynical husband. Based on the novel The Sphinx Has Spoken by Maurice de Kobra, Friends and Lovers represented one of Laurence Olivier's last early-talkie Hollywood films before he returned to England to hone his acting skills.
by Hal Erickson synopsis