Thursday, March 29, 2007


The plot of this early talkie romantic comedy reminds me of Mrs. Doubtfire crossed with Cinderella. Ann Harding, the wallflower daughter of O. P Heggie and Louise Closser Hale, has a crush on a friend of the family, famous barrister Leslie Howard, but of course he never notices her, so to be close to him she disguises herself as a lower-class nanny (complete with a Cockney accent) and applies for a job as governess to Howard's little boy (we're told his wife killed herself years ago). Howard lives in a spacious apartment in an old building called the Temple, in which all comings and goings are strictly observed by landlords Dudley Digges and Alison Skipworth. Skipworth in particular is a stickler for upright behavior and, since Howard's governess will be living in the apartment, Harding makes herself look as dowdy as she can to ensure getting the job. She's a good governess and she manages to keep up her double life, occasionally making appearances at her family's house, until an artist friend of Howard's (Robert Williams) recognizes her while she's sitting for a portrait. Of course, Howard soon wises up as well and falls for her, but then we find out that Howard's wife isn't dead, just a wicked woman who ran off, and she returns to put a kink in their romantic plans. Up to this point, the film is fun, but once Harding decides to accept a marriage proposal from Williams, the writers don't seem to know how to get things back in order, and the denoument is handled in a rushed, inept fashion. The leads are fine, though it's difficult to buy the vivacious Harding as an "ugly duckling" daughter in the beginning. Skipworth and Digges are also very good, and the large, well appointed sets are impressive. [TCM]

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