Unexpected Uncle (1941)

Unexpected Uncle (1941)

Directed by Peter Godfrey this Eric Hatch (My Man Godfrey (1936)) novel was adapted by Delmer Daves and Noel Langley into a pretty funny romance-drama with the always delightful Charles Coburn in the title role. The beautiful Ann Shirley and (the sometimes insufferable) James Craig play the couple of “youngsters” that Coburn’s character plays matchmaker for in much the same way he does for Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea a couple of years later in The More The Merrier (1943). However in this one Shirley plays Kathleen Brown a family-less “girl from the other side of the tracks” who’s pursued by the wealthy young playboy Johnny Kerrigan (Craig) whose father died and left him in charge of his 12000 employee shoe business. Coburn plays the kindly elderly gentleman (and a master at horseshoes!) Seton Mansley who’s somewhat of a busybody and lives in a trailer park in Florida where the two young people first meet.

Unable to resist helping the crying Miss Brown who’s just been fired by her boss (Hans Conreid uncredited) for having been kissed on the nose by a customer the aforementioned Johnny Kerrigan Seton Mansley helps Kathleen get her job back and get the day off to boot. This allows her to have lunch with the love-struck Johnny who annoyingly calls her his “funny bunny” throughout the film. “Uncle Seton” who seems quite well educated about the young Kerrigan’s world despite his humble environs later becomes Kathleen’s chaperon to a party at one of the many exclusive Palm Beach-like clubs to which Mr. Kerrigan belongs. From some of his friends (played by Renee Godfrey Russell Gleason & Astrid Allwyn) Uncle Seton learns about Johnny’s mixed up life and the reasons for his hard partying and drinking: caused by his having his father’s business and all the incumbent responsibilities dropped in his lap at an early age. Johnny didn’t want any of this but is made to feel guilty by the remaining company executives (Jed Prouty appears as one of these; Jimmy Conlin uncredited as another) and his trusted valet Wilkins (Ernest Truex) who remind him of the 12000 employees who depend on him. He was in Florida to escape Kerrigan City when he meet Kathleen.

Through a confluence of events in which Johnny is thought to have been kidnapped by Seton but is rescued with Kathleen by some of Johnny’s friends (Godfrey & Gleason) Uncle Seton and Kathleen end up traveling on Johnny’s corporate jet back to Kerrigan City where Johnny resumes his business responsibilities. While Johnny’s off at work Uncle Seton and Kathleen get to know Wilkins better helping he and the other estate’s employees to kick up their heels and have a little fun when it’s discovered that it’s Wilkins’s birthday. Unfortunately Johnny returns home with several other Kerrigan executives for a business meeting and is very upset at what he sees. Naturally this sets Kathleen to crying once again and she later “disappears” returning home to Florida. Seton then reveals to Johnny that he’s really Alfred Crane the infamous head of another conglomerate who walked away from $40 million dollars some 10 years earlier. There’s no real mystery at this point as to how this one will end e.g. boys gets girl back.

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