Thursday, April 05, 2012


Edmund Gwenn, a longtime faculty member at a research institute, has just been denied the $20,000 grant he needs to continue his studies. His niece (Frances Gifford), also a researcher, convinces three of Gwenn's fellow professors to help out. One of them (Reginald Owen) has developed a scientific system to determine winners in horse races, so they decide to bet their combined savings of $2000 on a horse called Mr. McGillicutty. When they go to Pasadena for the race, the four of them wind up having to share a hotel room with James Craig, who owns the horse. He tries to talk them out of the bet, certain that the horse has no chance. Gifford changes the bet at the last minute, but McGillicutty wins after all. Bad news for Gifford, but good news for Owen, as it's proof that his system works, so they try to raise money to bet on another race. In the meantime, Gifford falls for Craig just as an old flame of Craig's (Ava Gardner), also a horse owner, shows up at the hotel.

This is the set-up for a frothy screwball comedy, but as a B-picture, it can't quite capture the magic of an AWFUL TRUTH or PHILADELPHIA STORY. Gifford is bland and Craig (pictured with Gardner at left and Gifford at right), starting to lose his matinee idol looks, is only marginally better. Gardner supplies some much-needed spark in the last half of the film. The most fun, however, is supplied by the professors: Owen, Sig Ruman, and Charles Halton. Owen shines in the standout role, with Ruman doing his best to steal scenes. Gwenn is reliably fine, and two lesser-known character actors, J.M. Kerrigan (as the horse’s trainer) and Frank Orth (as a bartender) also do nice work. I lost track of the various shenanigans, but it closes with a nice bit involving Gifford and Gardner placing bets on the last race, with the winner getting Craig. Good line, from Ruman, when told that the betting system doesn't take into account the human factor: "We are scientists—with this 'human' business, we have nothing to do!" [TCM]

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