Richard Brinsley Sheridan's stage comedy The School for Scandal made theatrical history in 1777 as the first play to use an onstage prop (a dressing screen) as an important plot device. While this proved exciting to 18th-century audiences, the effect wasn't quite the same when the Sheridan play was brought to the screen in 1930, though Sheridan's potent witticisms remained intact (one suspects that the 1916 silent version wasn't quite as effective). The story concerns the misadventures of young Lady Teazle (Madeleine Carroll), who must not only fend off the jealous accusations of her elderly husband (Basil Gill) but also the envious barbs of every gossip in London. Meanwhile, two handsome brothers -- one virtuous, the other a cad -- become inextricably involved in Lady T's travails, both demonstrating their true colors in the final act. The very famous "screen scene" goes on much too long in this version, though its resolution still pays off in big laughs. The best scenes occur amongst the various and sundry gossips, who bear such spell-it-out character names as "Lady Sneerwell" and "Sir Benjamin Backbite"! Sharp-eyed viewers will spot future stars Rex Harrison and Anna Neagle in bit parts.
by Hal Erickson synopsis