Saturday, February 09, 2008


A Depression-era romance notable for its interesting variation on the "true love wins" narrative arc. The focus is on a working-class big-city family: dad Spencer Charters is unemployed and, though he insists to his wife (Jane Darwell) that he's looking for a job, he's really out betting on horses with spare dollar bills he scrounges up. Older daughter Ann Sothern has a job which just barely supports ma and pa and her younger sister (Joan Gale) and brother (14-year-old Mickey Rooney). She dates Paul Kelly, a hard working mechanic who has just started his own garage; he's a nice guy and her family likes him, but when he stands her up on her birthday to help a stranded motorist, she goes on a blind date and hits it off with Neil Hamilton, the rich son of a department store magnate. They hit it off, he gets her a job modeling at the store, and she drops Kelly, though he continues to visit the family. Things go well for Sothern until Hamilton asks her to go on a long trip to Europe with him, but without the benefit of clergy, so she dumps him, and then gets fired from her job, not by Hamilton but by his father who thinks Sothern is bad news for his son. Now the sexual politics get interesting. With the family in dire straits, Kelly gives Sothern's dad a job just to keep them from getting evicted. Darwell then tells Sothern she should "repay" Kelly by marrying him, even though she no longer loves him. Kelly proposes and she half-heartedly accepts; there follows a string of odd incidents, including Kelly getting his leg crushed in a garage accident (which is the fault of her father) and Sothern, desperate for money, entering a dance marathon (a la "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"). Ultimately, both Hamilton and Kelly perform selfless acts for Sothern, and she rather surprisingly winds up going off with Hamilton. I never really bought Sothern as truly in love with Hamilton (a problem with her acting, perhaps) so I was surprised when she turned down good hearted working-class self-sacrifice for good hearted playboy affection. The ending goes against the Hollywood grain which is what makes this film stand out just a bit from the run of the mill melodrama of the era. Leonard Maltin's guide calls this a romantic comedy, and while it does have a light tone and an ostensibly happy ending, it's not ha-ha funny very often. [TCM]

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