Monday, July 10, 2006


Another delightful George Arliss picture, like A SUCCESSFUL CALAMITY, in which he plays a sort of "foxy grandpa" type, a gruff-seeming older man who has charm and prankish energy beneath his facade, who usually winds up teaching some young whippersnappers a lesson. In this one, he's the founder of Reeves Shoes, the country's leading shoe company. He is particularly proud of staying ahead of his chief competitor, Hartland Shoes, run by an old friend of his who married the woman that they both loved. Arliss's company is in such good shape that his nephew (Hardie Albright) tries to talk Arliss into retiring and living out the rest of his days fishing in Maine. When Hartland dies and his company falls into the hands of his fast-living son and daughter (Theodore Newton and Bette Davis), who are on the verge of running the company into bankruptcy, Arliss decides to go undercover and try to save the company, out of a sense of loyalty to Hartland and his kids. He puts in a secret bid to buy the company, works his way in as a trustee, and (rather improbably) is also named a quasi-legal guardian to Newton and Davis. In the beginning they like Arliss because he seems easygoing and harmless, but he quickly lays down the laws, cutting out their hard partying and their unrestrained spending, and soon he has them working hard to turn the company around, despite the machinations of the crooked manager (Gordon Westcott). In fact, Davis decides to do some undercover work of her own and, under an assumed name, gets a job at Reeves Shoes in order to learn some skills she can bring back to Hartland. A romance develops between Davis and Albright, which is threatened when Arliss fires Westcott and he comes to Albright to get a job and recognizes Davis. Being a comedy, there are happy endings all around for all who deserve them, though the climax plays out in a hurry. Arliss is great fun in a role he could probably have done in his sleep. Davis is OK, though Albright as an uptight blond boy, and Newton as a mellow blond boy, are a little too low-energy. Westcott makes a fine and slimy villain, J. Farrell MacDonald has a nice scene or two as Arliss' fishing buddy, and Edward Van Sloan shows up as Arliss's assistant. Quite fun all around. [TCM]

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