Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Herbert Marshall, head honcho at an auto company, is about to marry a woman of good breeding who only wants him for his money. Frustrated with his board of directors who don’t like his new car designs, he leaves a meeting in a huff and winds up sitting on a park bench with Jean Arthur who is down on her luck. They look through the want-ads together and she, thinking he's also out of work, suggests the two of them pose as a married couple and apply for a butler/maid position. He agrees to meet her the next day to do so, leading to an amusing scene in with Marshall gets some career tips from his butler. They're hired by Leo Carrillo, a cultured gangster; he winds up loving Arthur's cooking and, when he suspects something’s up because Marshall sleeps on the balcony rather than with his "wife," he starts flirting with her. There are rather tortured plot complications involving Marshall stealing his own car designs out of the company’s safe, he and Arthur "breaking up" even though they've developed feelings for each other, and Carrillo's thugs showing up at Marshall's wedding to rub him out, though they actually wind up getting Marshall and Arthur together.

Though this film is part of Columbia’s Icons of Screwball Comedy DVD set, it's a weak example of the genre. It's amusing and moves quickly, but one of the keys to a truly successful screwball comedy is that you can use adjectives like "fizzy" and "sparkling" to describe them, and I can’t with this one. The main obstacle to fizziness is the lack of chemistry between Marshall and Arthur, almost all of it due to the drab, tired Marshall, who looks he should be on his third marriage, not his first. He's fine in his comedic scenes, but falls flat in portraying any romantic interest in Arthur. That said, Arthur and the supporting players, including Carillo, Lionel Stander, and Frieda Inescourt, make the film enjoyable enough. Good line: Marshall, to his butler, "Do you think I’m out of my mind?" Butler: "I’m hoping for the best, sir." [DVD]

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