Friday, January 19, 2007


A cute romantic comedy/mystery, not as gloriously screwball as the early Thin Man movies, but fun, with an effective star pairing in Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur. McCrea is a well-known crime reporter, hired by editor Thomas Mitchell, who wants him to find a big story to sell lots of papers ("If you can involve a woman and a haunted castle...," says Mitchell). McCrea, who is sure that a supposedly dead jewel thief named Barlea is behind a recent rash of jewel thefts, sees himself as a dispassionate observer who never lets emotion get the better of him. One evening, Arthur, a down-on-her-luck woman, robs him in a desperate attempt to get a makeover so she'll look good when she meets her young daughter, whom she hasn't seen in years. McCrea's defenses are weakened and he not only helps her out, he accompanies her to the reunion. I won't say exactly what happens then, but most astute viewers will have guessed that things are not what they seem, and in fact Arthur is an actress who is helping a gang of reporters pull a prank on McCrea to burst his heartless rep. He's a good sport, however, and he hits it off with Arthur, and with the producer (Reginald Owen) of a play she's in, not realizing that Owen is actually Barlea and is using the production of the play (a WWI drama with lots of battlefield noise) as a cover to have his men tunnel into the bank next door to get away with a priceless diamond. McCrea makes a very precise and public prediction about when the bank will be robbed, and he's right, but Owen cancels the plan, leaving McCrea disgraced and jobless. The theft does eventually get pulled, and as this is a comedy, McCrea also gets the upper hand, in a somewhat roundabout way. There are some plot holes here and there, but the movie works remarkably well, with its fun twists and turns, and solid acting by all. Not to diminish the leads, who have good chemistry, but Owen steals the show with his sly performance. An entertaining find from the unplumbed depths of the Columbia Pictures catalog which Turner Classic Movies seems to have licensed (thank goodness!) at least temporarily. If they run it again, catch it! [TCM]

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