Kisses for Breakfast (1941)
If ever there was a comedy that tried too hard and completely missed this was it. Directed by Lewis Seiler this Seymour Hicks play (“The Matrimonial Bed”) was adapted by Kenneth Gamet to make one of the worst (intentional) comedies I’ve ever seen. Part of the problem is casting but the main problem is in the execution of its somewhat promising concept: a man gets amnesia from a bump to his head received on his wedding day such that he happens to marry his first wife’s out-of-state and unknowing cousin one year later. Unfortunately the slapstick set-ups the dialogue and even the acting itself misses time and time again making this reviewer look at his watch as he asked himself “when will it end?”.
Rodney Trask (Dennis Morgan) is a singer who’s just asked flighty wealthy socialite Juliet Marsden (Shirley Ross) to marry him. She tells him he can have his answer in 10 minutes so that she’ll have time to break her engagement to Lucius Lorimer (Jerome Cowan!). Lucius apparently has no other prospects because he has stuck around Julie even though this is the third time she’s given him back his ring for another man. Lee Patrick plays Julie’s ever present friend Betty Trent who’s not so sure about Julie’s new prospective husband. Her suspicions are confirmed when on the day her friend has married him but before they’ve left on their honeymoon she sees Rodney driving away in his car with a pink hatted woman (Lucia Carroll). The woman and her accomplice have plans to blackmail Rodney with his past which would cause a scandal but a struggle causes the groom to receive a bump on his head. When he comes to he finds himself with a hobo (Frank Orth uncredited) and doesn’t remember who he is. A police officer (John Sheehan also uncredited) shoos the two away but not before the hobo dubs the amnesiac F. H. A. Homes after a government sign he sees so Rodney has a new name – Frederick Happy A. Homes. In the meantime the blackmailers dump Rodney’s car over a cliff near the ocean such that Julie et al believe him to be dead.
Jane Wyatt plays Laura Anders Julie’s cousin who called to say that she couldn’t attend the wedding because she had an appendicitis. In truth she was too poor to make the trip from South Carolina. When asked what hospital she was in Laura tells her cousin and Julie’s maid Ellie (Una O’Connor) writes it down. This slip of paper is the only thing “Happy” finds in his pocket as he’s struggling to figure out where he belongs. So he travels to South Carolina where he locates Laura whose maid is played by Louise Beavers. Wait a minute wasn’t she too poor to travel to her cousin’s wedding? Never mind. Anyway Julie owns a cotton plantation (Clarence Muse plays its foreman) which is in the red (in debt) until – flash forward one year – Happy has managed it into the black (making a profit). Coincidentally Julie is engaged to Lucius again and Laura’s been asked to attend. She and Happy decide to get married on their way to her cousin’s wedding.
Of course when Julie and her household see who Laura’s brought to town they all faint … one by one though no one can top Ms. O’Connor’s dramatic act. Another servant (Willie Best) thinks he must be a ghost. Phillips (Barnett Parker) the butler downs a drink from his serving tray. Happy and Laura who’s conveniently out of the room much of the time begin to believe Julie and the rest of their hosts are crazy. When Julie phones “Doc” Burroughs (Romaine Callendar) he quickly diagnoses that Happy could be Rodney suffering from amnesia. So the doctor joins the household where several paths are taken to ascertain whether Happy and Rodney are one in the same. First they try to get Happy’s fingerprints so that Doc can have them compared to Rodney’s service record. Once they finally get them Doc later discovers that all the service records have been shipped to Washington. While the doctor is finding this out Julie and the rest of the household which now includes a shirtless Lucius conspire to keep Happy & Laura from consummating their marriage. Their near insane actions drive the newlyweds to want to leave as soon as possible which is foiled when Julie and Betty foul the water supply making an oily shower for both. The reason the couple is taking showers in the first place is just one of the many improbable actions which make the whole situation too stupid to be funny.
At last Doc returns and tries the (in the movies) tried and true method of hypnosis which leads to Rodney’s “return”. Then just when you thought the already humorless activities could get no sillier you are proved wrong … as Rodney learns about his missing year and his two wives fight for their man. The filmmakers seemed to have forgotten that for something to be funny there has to be some sense of reality or the screwball situation(s) don’t work.