Friday, August 15, 2003


A trifle, occasionally irritating but worth watching for a few of my favorite supporting actors. I have to imagine that even in 1940, this plot was a bit far-fetched for people's tastes. Frank Morgan plays a mild-mannered pet store owner in a small town; his family loves him, but his wife (Billie Burke) wishes he were a bit more ambitious. Through a needlessly complicated plot machination involving a plan to visit a rich school pal who now lives in Australia, Morgan heads off for New York City but never makes it to the liner for Australia, winding up instead in jail for 30 days on a "drunk and disorderly" charge. Meanwhile, the liner sinks and Morgan is presumed dead. The family gets a good chunk of insurance money and sells the pet store; though they genuinely miss Morgan, they are in much better financial shape than ever. Morgan eventually returns, scaring the Dickens out of everyone, and soon they all realize that, in order to avoid a fraud charge, Morgan must remain "dead," relegated to living in the attic. Tiring of this plan fairly quickly, Morgan lets a tyrannical streak show, terrorizing the family with his demands and soon everyone is looking for a way out. And that's only about two-thirds of the plot! Ann Rutherford is the daughter, who falls for John Shelton, a snobbish NYC bandleader who disses everyone when he's in town for a gig, but who redeems himself by helping Morgan out while he's in the Big Apple. Reginald Owen, playing against type, is a band member who plays a crucial role in a real estate scam the family runs against shiftless Donald Meek. Frank Albertson and Nat Pendleton are also in the cast. Amusing in spots; I like Morgan but he's awfully hammy here. Despite a few plot loopholes, the scam is nicely pulled off and provides a satisfying ending.

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