Friday, February 17, 2006


Basically, a screwball comedy without the central romantic element that's usually present. Your enjoyment of this will depend on your tolerance for the buddy comedy of James Cagney and Pat O'Brien, kicked here into ultra-high gear. The two play a screenwriting team who are getting tired of churning out formula pix ("boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl") for their studio boss (Ralph Bellamy). Nevertheless, they get assigned to a western which is supposed to save the fading reputation of cowboy star Dick Foran. Pregnant studio waitress Marie Wilson faints in Bellamy's office and the boys get the idea to write their movie around the newborn baby, named Happy. Happy's a hit but no one's happy, and the complications (including a case of measles that sidelines both the baby and the cowboy) pile on rather chaotically to the predictable "happy" ending. The whole thing has the rather forced frantic feel of Cagney's much later comedy, ONE TWO THREE, and I was exhausted by the end of the first hour of this 90 minute movie. There are several small joys to be had, including some jibes at studio thinking: for example, the studio seems proud of the fact that there are no English actors employed in the filming of "Young England"; the baby/cowboy movie is billed as being based on Shakespeare; the baby is billed as "the Crown Prince of Comedy, the King of Tragedy, and the Emperor of Emotion." The trumpeters that barge in at the end of each "act" (the movie is based on a play and it shows) are a hoot. Cagney and O'Brien do have comic chemistry with each other, even if Cagney is constantly in danger of going so far over the top that he'll exit the movie. The fine supporting cast includes Frank McHugh as Foran's agent and Bruce Lester as a British extra who falls for Wilson. Ronald Reagan has a small role as an MC at the premiere of the cowboy movie, and film buffs will recognize James Stephenson and Dennie Moore in bit roles. [TCM]

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