The Divorcee

The Divorcee is a 1930 American pre-Code drama film written by Nick Grindé, John Meehan, and Zelda Sears, based on the novel Ex-Wife by Ursula Parrott. It was directed by Robert Z. Leonard, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, and won Best Actress for its star Norma Shearer.[1]

The Divorcee
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Z. Leonard
Produced byRobert Z. Leonard
Written byNick Grinde
Zelda Sears
John Meehan
Based onEx-Wife
by Ursula Parrott
StarringNorma Shearer
Chester Morris
Music byJack Yellen
Milton Ager
CinematographyNorbert Brodine
Edited byHugh Wynn
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • April 30, 1930 (1930-04-30) (United States)
Running time
84 mins.
CountryUnited States


Ted (Chester Morris), Jerry (Norma Shearer), Paul (Conrad Nagel), and Dorothy (Helen Johnson) are part of the New York in-crowd. Jerry's decision to marry Ted crushes Paul. He gets drunk, and is involved in an accident that leaves Dorothy's face disfigured. Out of pity, Paul marries Dorothy. Ted and Jerry have been married for three years when she discovers that he had a brief affair with another woman—and when she confronts him on their third anniversary, he tells her it did not "mean a thing". Upset, and with Ted away on a business trip, Jerry spends the night with his best friend, Don. Upon Ted's return, she tells him that she "balanced [their] accounts", withholding Don's name.

Ted is hypocritically outraged, and they argue, which ends with Ted leaving her and the couple filing for a divorce. While Jerry turns to partying to forget her sorrows, Ted becomes an alcoholic. Paul and Jerry run into each other, and she discovers that he still loves her and is willing to leave Dorothy to be with her. Only after she meets Dorothy is Jerry forced to evaluate her decision.



MGM production head Irving Thalberg bought the rights to Ex-Wife in the summer of 1929. Thalberg's original choice for the role of Jerry was Joan Crawford.[2]

Norma Shearer, Thalberg's wife, was originally never in the running for the lead role in The Divorcee because it was believed that she did not have enough sex appeal. Only after Shearer arranged a special photo session with independent portrait photographer George Hurrell, and Thalberg saw the result, he did relent and give her the role.[3]


The Divorcee was released on DVD by Warner Home Video on March 8, 2008 (along with A Free Soul, also starring Norma Shearer), as one of five pre-Code films in the "TCM Archives - Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Vol. 2" DVD box set. Other movies with the same title were released in 1917, 1919, and 1969.


Norma Shearer won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Also starring in the film are Robert Montgomery, Conrad Nagel, Helen Johnson, and Florence Eldridge.


  1. Thise, Mark (2008). Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 197. ISBN 0-879-10351-5.
  2. Fleming, E. J. (2008). Paul Bern: The Life and Famous Death of the MGM Director and Husband of Harlow. McFarland. p. 146. ISBN 0-786-43963-7.
  3. Wayne, Jane Ellen (2003). The Golden Girls of MGM: Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Others. Da Capo Press. p. 51. ISBN 0-786-71303-8.
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