Icons of Screwball Comedy Volume Two
Theodora Goes Wild (1936) – full review!
Together Again (1944) – sure enough Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne are ‘together again’ for the third time actually (though even most cinephiles probably haven’t heard of When Tomorrow Comes (1939)); the first time was in the hit Best Picture nominee Love Affair (1939). Though the two are romantically linked yet again this time the genre is comedy (I think labeling it a screwball is a bit of a stretch though). There are at least a couple of other common themes that run through it as well including the fact that Dunne’s character is from a conservative scandal-conscious town that she’s worried about offending – ala Theodora Goes Wild (1936) – such that a considerable amount of discussion and screen-time is devoted to keeping up appearances especially since she plays the town’s Mayor and its newspaper is run by her political rival (Charles Dingle); another is the mother and daughter falling for the same man scenario: Mona Freeman plays widow Dunne’s emotionally dramatic daughter-in-law. Charles Coburn adds value (as always) to the story playing Dunne’s father-in-law and cupid. He believes that his daughter-in-law is still young and vibrant that five years is long enough to mourn the loss of his son and that she’s wasting her life by keeping the title of mayor in the family (he’d been the mayor before his son and now she ‘runs’ Brookhaven Vermont). Coburn’s character convinces Dunne’s that the lightning strike which dislodged the head of her husband’s statue is a sign that her deceased also wants her to move on. She travels to New York City to hire an artist to sculpt a replacement statue and naturally when she meets him it’s Boyer. After an innocent but potentially scandalous incident she flees for home and interested he follows her. Given the aforementioned complications the romance proceeds slowly; the situation is further confused by Dunne’s daughter’s beau (Jerome Courtland’s inauspicious debut with an out-of-place Southern drawl) who ‘throws’ his mixed up hormones on the pile. Elizabeth Patterson playing the longtime family maid completes the credited cast.
The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940) – is a textbook screwball comedy containing virtually all of the required elements including charming stars – Loretta Young and Ray Milland – whose characters initially despise one another a misunderstanding that sets up an absurd situation forcing them to begrudgingly ‘live with it’ which complicates their relationships with those around them until finally it leads to the predictable (attraction between them) and plenty of slapstick. Directed by Alexander Hall it features a screenplay by George Seaton and Ken Englund that was based on a story by Aleen Leslie; the first part of it reminded me of Without Reservations (1946). Young plays the author of “Spinsters Aren’t Spinach”; it’s about how women don’t need men to feel fulfilled. Circumstances set up a disagreeable journey with a stranger (Milland) a doctor-instructor that wants to be a full professor and a quirky occurrence leads to a belief that the two are married. Young’s publisher-‘boyfriend’ (Reginald Gardiner) concerned with the loss of her book’s sales convinces the author to play along until she can write a book about the virtues of marriage. Though he’s initially opposed to it per a pending engagement to his girlfriend (Gail Patrick) Milland’s agrees to join the ruse after he learns from his father (Edmund Gwenn) that he’s been promoted because of his recent ‘matrimony’. Look quick for Gordon Jones playing a football playing student of Milland’s; character actor Charles Halton is among those who also appear.
A Night to Remember (1943) – precedes the Abbott & Costello ‘haunted house and monster’ mystery comedies of the decade but “if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all”. This one features Loretta Young and Brian Aherne (a “lover not a fighter”) as a young married couple that rent a notorious Greenwich Village basement apartment – which used to be a speakeasy – in a building filled with secretive and nervous residents. Ironically Aherne’s character is a writer of murder mysteries and it’s his inquisitive mind that ultimately solves the crime for the police inspector (Sidney Toler) and his cranky lieutenant (Donald MacBride). Don Costello (no relation) plays the couple’s landlord. The other creepy inhabitants are played by Jeff Donnell and William Wright who play a married couple Lee Patrick and Richard Gaines. Appropriate for the genre Gale Sondergaard (as well as a large turtle named ‘Old Hickory’) also figures in the plot. It was directed by Richard Wallace and written by Richard Flournoy (The More the Merrier (1943)) and Jack Henley from a story by Kelley Roos.