William Wyler's 1936 drama about the dissolution of a wealthy American couple's marriage is one of his best efforts, may be only slightly below The Letter, Best Years of Our Lives or The Heiress (of the ones that I have seen). It is refreshingly mature and unsentimental in tackling a host of subjects and themes - American provincial life, European vs American culture, snobbery, gender, aging etc.
Walter Huston plays the title character, an auto mogul, who after selling his business, decides to go on a European tour with his wife Fran, played by Ruth Chatterston (who is very impressive in the role). In Europe they both realize that they want different things from life, though in their own ways they both are uncomfortable with the onset of old age. Fran gets herself involved with a bunch of rich and faded aristocrat type men but all her affairs come to nothing. Many of these scenes very subtly criticise European mores, it portrays these people as if they were still just pretending to believe in Old Europe. Fran's final lover is an Austrian aristocrat but has actually lost all his wealth and on top of that he is a hopeless mama's boy!
She also soon gets impatient with her husband's provincial and stubbornly "American" way of life, which as the film presents it, is much more "authentic" and devoid of hypocrisy. It doesn't however trumpet the triumphalism of American culture or even get self-righteous about it. It would have been tempting to turn the wife into a villain but Wyler manages to avoid that. He shows that their marriage, though outwardly successful, has been dull and lifeless all along, specially for Fran who has spent her entire life living as a model provincial wife. There is also a subplot involving Mary Astor who plays a seemingly happy widow with whom Dodsworth tries to imagine a life of meaning and adventure.
Huston deservedly got an Oscar nomination for the role. He is really pitch-perfect for the part and so is Ruth Chatterston in the role of the wife. We can see how subtly they are transformed from self-confident, happy, even smugly satisfied to dejected, anxious and fearful old couple. One of the better romantic dramas of classic hollywood.