Tuesday, January 30, 2007


In the early days of sound, Winnie Lightner was a popular comic actress and singer, and this film is one of her few starring vehicles which is still in circulation--though DANCING LADY, in which she has a supporting role, is readily available. Here, she's brassy and sarcastic, and while I enjoyed her performance, I can see why she may have been more palatable as a second fiddle. The movie fits squarely in the comic "Gold Digger" genre of the era, with Lightner and Irene Delroy playing two working-class gals tired of their jobs singing for patrons in a sheet music store (and tired of their boss, whom Lightner calls a "pansy"). After a flirtatious playboy lays slapstick waste to the store, the boss blames the girls and fires them. They get jobs at M. LeMaire's dress shop but then take their clothes allowance and run off to do some man hunting in Havana, sending LeMaire (Charles Judels) a farewell telegram signed, "The Gold Dust Twins." The two stay at a resort hotel and Delroy sets her sights on a Mr. Smith (Jack Whiting), an overnight millionaire success due to his invention of a popular soft drink (called Rush!). However, she accidentally winds up involved with a different Mr. Smith (John Davidson), an oily lothario pretending to be rich but actually looking for his own meal ticket. Delroy and Whiting meet accidentally and hit it off, but Lightner pushes her to keep persuing Davidson. Meanwhile, addled but wealthy Southern horseman Charles Butterworth chases after Lightner. In the midst of all this, Judels comes down to Havana in hot pursuit of his dresses. Things get set right for our heroines after the comic climax in which Judels completely trashes a hotel room. Much of the humor, both physical and verbal, still holds up. I very much enjoyed Butterworth's nervous deadpan shtick, fluttering around on his own little cloud, exclaiming things like, "My, I'm all atwitter" and "Oh, the pity of it!"--it's a variation on what Edward Everett Horton did in the later Astaire/Rogers movies. Each scene of slapstick destruction is very amusing. Whiting is boyish but bland; Davidson is more interesting but not as handsome. Lightner left movies just a few years later, and based on the evidence of this film, I'm sorry she did. She could have carved out a fine comic career along the lines of a Joan Blondell or a Zasu Pitts. Whom or what the title refers to, I'm not sure, as I only remember one party in the movie, and none of the main characters is present for it. "Get Happy," later a big hit for Judy Garland, is used as background music early in the movie. [TCM]

No comments: