Curtain Call (1940)

Curtain Call (1940)

Helen Middleton (Barbara Read) is a small town girl who wants to be an author unfortunately she’s not a very good writer. She reads and acts out the first play she’s written over and over again for her family which includes noteworthy actors J.M. Kerrigan (One Crowded Night) as her father and Tommy Kelly (Tom Sawyer) as her brother and her would be fiance Ted Palmer (John Archer). Her father shows her a newspaper article which mentions that noted New York stage director Donald Avery (Alan Mowbray) will be duck hunting in their area this weekend. When she and the rest of her town’s press descend upon him at his hotel he brushes them off. When she shows up at his room he tells her to send her play to his office never intending to read it.

Avery’s partner and play producer Jeff Crandall played by Donald MacBride (The Great Man Votes) then calls and insists he returns to New York because of a crisis with their lead actress Charlotte Morley (Helen Vinson from I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang). Morley is threatening to sign with a rival producer after she completes her contract with Crandall & Avery for one more play. Crandall has an idea – if they can find a truly awful play with which to bluff Morley into believing will be her last play with them one which would ruin her they can force her to sign a contract for another 5 years. Enter the author Ms. Middleton whose play is the worst piece of tripe Crandall’s secretary (Leona Maricle) has ever read. Unfortunately Morley calls his bluff though it is unclear until the end whether she really believes the play is a good one or is merely pretending herself since her contract would require Crandall to give her $15000 if he refuses to produce a play she accepts.

So the comedy begins. Since it will cost Crandall less money ($13000) to actually produce the play than to pay Morley and have nothing he buys Middleton’s play for $500 intending to have Avery significantly rewrite it. When Middleton shows up in New York however Morley urges her to exercise her contract rights as the author to have her play produced as written. Convinced that they’ll never be able to find work again if they do the play as is Crandall persuades Avery to “court” Middleton until she changes her mind. Unfortunately since no one has ever told her how awful her writing really is she sticks to her guns and the courting becomes overlong and not as funny as this film’s producers must have thought it would be.

In the end though everything works out (of course) even for Middleton whose small town boyfriend comes to New York to see “her” play.

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