Not the most lighthearted comedy in the world, beginning with the death of Katharine Hepburn’s mother, following with the death of her drunken crook father. Hepburn (already in her third film with Cukor) lives in France with her father Edmund Gwenn (the so-called bodyguard in Foreign Correspondent who keeps trying to kill Joel McCrea, also Santa in Miracle on 34th Street). They escape to England with her disguised as a boy for cover from dad’s embezzling crimes.

They meet con man Cary Grant (in his 20th film in four years) on the boat, and he teams up with the couple – which was our first complaint with the movie. When we meet Grant, he’s smuggling diamonds inside his shoes, which has got to be more lucrative than running con games in public parks with a busted drunk and his “son.” Grant (with a fun cockney accent) introduces them to an acquaintance named Maudie, a maid at a house where Grant hopes to steal some jewelery. Hepburn (very funny in her hat and suit) foils the heist, her dad ends up marrying Maudie, and the four go on the road as a vaudeville act.

Family portrait:

Kate falls for an artist (mustachioed Brian Aherne, title characters in Captain Fury and The Great Garrick) who’s being chased by some rich-looking Russian girl named Lily. The artist finds himself falling for Kate as well, much to his own confusion. Dad falls off a cliff while drunkenly searching for his cheating wife, and the same morning Lily tries to drown herself, rescued by Kate. After a brief sidetrack in jail, Kate and the artist escape on a train, running into Cary and Lily. My Katy thought it unfair that Kate didn’t get Cary Grant at the end, but he didn’t deserve her.

The artist and the princess:

The movie flopped so hard that Cukor was fired from RKO Pictures over it. It’s said that audiences thought Hepburn was awful as a boy, that they walked out in droves after Maudie tries to make out with her, but nobody ventures that crowds found the plot stupidly implausible – especially after the vaudeville bit. It’s all in good fun, I know. If Some Like It Hot was daring for messing with gender roles in 1959, I imagine it was completely unheard-of in films 25 years earlier. I thought that aspect and lots of the character and acting were much more successful than the overall story – it’s a good movie strapped onto a mediocre plot.

Grant’s noirish introduction:


The role seemed a natural for [Hepburn]; she had already set tongues wagging as one of the first women in the U.S. to wear trousers in public. Not only did she make a very convincing young man with her hair cut short, but Time Magazine’s reviewer would quip that “Sylvia Scarlett reveals the interesting fact that Katharine Hepburn is better looking as a boy than as a woman.”

In the title I accidentally typed “Frank Zappa” at first. Usually my sympathies lie more with Zappa than Capra, but I liked this one a lot. The version of the play that we did in high school did not give the male lead a homicidal maniac of a brother with a mad doctor and a dead body in tow. I remember it being all around more gentle. The play was a huge hit when this movie was shot, and the playwright permitted the film under two conditions: that Boris Karloff wouldn’t be allowed to participate (all the jokes about the brother looking like Karloff depended on him, but instead of changing the line for the film, they made Raymond Massey up to look like Karloff) and the movie couldn’t be released until the play closed. So it was shown to troops overseas, but didn’t make it into theaters until 1944, some six Cary Grant movies later.

Grant wasn’t wild about this movie – I thought he used his surprised screwball expression too many times but is otherwise just fine. He is to marry Priscilla Lane (of The Roaring Twenties and Saboteur), takes her home to meet his sweet old aunts but discovers that they’ve been murdering lonely men and having Cary’s insane Teddy Roosevelt-impersonating brother bury them in the basement. Then the other brother (Raymond Massey of a couple Powell and Pressburger films) with doctor Peter Lorre show up, and hijinks just never stop ensuing. In fact, the comedy and suspense don’t even let up long enough for Capra to inject any long, boring speeches espousing his patriotism or morals. Hooray for that! E. Everett Horton was in there as well, but I’ve already forgotten where.

Garson Kanin would quit directing during WWII, went on to write Adam’s Rib and Born Yesterday. Written by the Spewack family (Kiss Me Kate) with help from producer Leo McCarey (Ruggles of Red Gap, The Awful Truth). Shot by Rudolph Maté (who’d later direct D.O.A.) and edited by Robert Wise (who’d direct Day The Earth Stood Still, The Haunting and West Side Story). That’s altogether too much talent for one light comedy to stand! It holds up just fine, though

Three years after The Awful Truth, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne again play a couple in trouble. This time it’s not simple divorce proceedings – she has been missing for years, stranded on an island with hunky Randolph Scott (a year before Western Union), and Grant has just declared her legally dead so he can marry young Gail Patrick (the bad sister in My Man Godfrey). But it’s clear from the beginning that Dunne and Grant need to end up back together since, first of all they have kids and this is the 40’s, and secondly Randolph and Gail are never taken seriously by the movie, as romantic mates or anything else. And so that’s what happens, and I suppose Randolph and Gail end up together but I can’t remember for sure. Ends with a bonkers scene, Grant trying to sleep on a broken cot in the attic before he gives up and comes down to join his wife. Something about male stubbornness I guess.

Wikipedia calls it screwball but I think that word is tossed around too much. Bosley Crowther at the Times was in a weird mood, calling it “a frankly fanciful farce, a rondo of refined ribaldries,” also giving thumbs-up to Granville Bates as the judge in two major scenes. Remade with Doris Day and James Garner in the 60’s.

Seems safe to call this a screwball comedy. Cary Grant, a famous painter of Americana whose work we never see, gives a lecture before lovestruck Shirley Temple’s class a couple hours after being dismissed by Temple’s judge sister Myrna Loy for taking part in a bar brawl. An older-sister-younger-sister-Cary love triangle follows, complicated by serious man Rudy Vallee (guy with the constantly-broken specs in Palm Beach Story) who likes Myrna. Anyone who’s seen a romantic comedy before knows that two serious people should not end up together, so Myrna eventually warms up to the reputedly wild (we never see him misbehave much) Grant.

Cary, Shirley’s own-age love-interest Johnny Sands, and Rudy:

Shirley is too good for the bellboy:

Won a well-deserved oscar for writing, beating out Monsieur Verdoux and Shoeshine. Super enjoyable overall, and Shirley Temple is excellent. Can’t think of any other 18-year-old who would’ve equalled her performance. That’s the upside of being a child star. The downside is that the following year at 19, with a kid and an abusive husband (MST3K target John Agar), her film career was over.

Myrna Loy is not amused:

Also good: the girls’ uncle (Orson Welles regular Ray Collins) as a meddling, unethical psychologist, and grumpy oldster Harry Davenport (Meet Me In St. Louis, You Can’t Take It With You). Written by Sidney Sheldon (Anything Goes, Pardners, Annie Get Your Gun) and energetically directed by Reis, who’d be dead from cancer six years later.

How everyone in the 40’s saw Cary Grant:

Dreamer Johnny (Cary Grant, a year after The Awful Truth) is supposed to marry Julia (Doris Nolan, who wasn’t in the movies for long) but finds that he has more in common with her sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn, a few months after Bringing Up Baby and somewhat less manic). After his upcoming vacation with fiancee and friends E. Everett Horton (Astaire’s straight man in The Gay Divorcee) and Jean Dixon (the heroine’s sister in My Man Godfrey) Johnny plans to quit his job and spend a year rethinking what to do with his life. Turns out this is quite unacceptable to Julia, who has big plans for Johnny’s career in her father’s footsteps. Out of love for the girl, Johnny nearly accepts this boring and restricted new life for himself, but wait, free-spirit Hepburn, similarly imprisoned by class/career expectations, is also in love with him, so he and she go off on holiday together.

Cary, stuck between his witch-hatted old fiancee and flat-hatted new fiancee:

KH impersonating her stuffed giraffe:

Lew Ayres (Dr. Kildare himself) plays the girls’ tragicomic drunk brother. I thought he was E. Everett Horton the whole time because it turns out I don’t know who E.E.H. is. This was a remake of a 1930 version in which E.E.H. plays the same character he does here. Katy and I liked it a whole bunch, but I was looking forward to seeing a holiday, and the movie takes place between two holidays. I thought I’d seen this before, but may have been confusing it with Charade – a color movie starring Grant and a different Hepburn filmed 25 years later, oops.

Tragicomic Lew Ayres:

EEH and Jean Dixon vs. the butler:

Three movies that I’ve never heard of, all Christmastime classics if Robert Osborne is to be believed. Nice to see Primal’s new open (featuring myself) introducing them.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947, Henry Koster)

Robert Osbourne tells us before every single movie on TCM that the studio wanted to get Cary Grant. With every 1947 picture to choose from, you’d think he could’ve livened up Unfaithfully Yours, starred in Moonrise or cameoed in Key Largo, but instead he did this inert religious drama with David Niven (a year after Niven appeared in P&P’s probably much better angel drama A Matter of Life and Death). Niven is a bishop with pretty wife Loretta Young (of Man’s Castle, also costarred with Niven in Eternally Yours). She misses doing nice romantic things with her husband, going out to eat, seeing old friends, so when actual angel Grant shows up, in addition to helping the bishop with his church work, he starts treating the wife right and falling in love with her. In the end it turns out he’s sabotaging Niven’s attempt to build a grand cathedral, and getting the lead sponsor (Gladys Cooper, Henry’s society mom in My Fair Lady) to invest in smaller, less gaudy charities instead. A real rogue prankster of an angel, he also inspires their lonely professor friend to start writing his long-delayed history book and gives him an infinite bottle of port.

Nominated for best picture and director, but twice beaten by Elia Kazan’s important issues drama. From the director of Harvey, another movie with a Hitchcock star and an imaginary friend. Movie seems to rely entirely on Grant and a few “miracle” fx tricks for charm, otherwise full of draggy scenes and dull dialogue.

Christmas In Connectitut (1945, Peter Godfrey)

Updated: here

Another romantic comedy based on a Big Lie, Barbara Stanwyck (post Lady Eve and Double Indemnity, lacking the fire and energy of either of those) writes a newspaper column where she’s a perfect CT housewife and mother full of amazing recipes. Her editor (Casablanca’s Sydney Greenstreet, big guy) invites himself over for Christmas, so she fakes it by borrowing a house and a baby from a dapper dullard (Reginald Gardiner of The Great Dictator) and inviting her master chef buddy Felix (Hungarian Cuddles Sakall, also in Casablanca). Also over for dinner is hot young WWII hero Dennis Morgan (of Affectionately Yours & The Return of Doctor X), who makes his desire for Stanwyck and her fake life known by meddling in simply everything and being overall a nuisance houseguest. It’s all seen as good and romantic though – after all, a guy who enjoys changing diapers is a real catch – and after the Lie falls apart, Barbara barely avoids marrying the dullard and snags Dennis instead.

Director Godfrey made a nazi shock drama starring Peter Lorre the same year. Despite having the least interesting plot of the three movies, this was the best written, and Cuddles Sakall steals every scene he’s in, very friendly to everyone except the big boss, whom he calls “fat man”, conspiring to ruin Barbara’s secret wedding to the dullard so she can end up with our hero.

Holiday Affair (1950, Don Hartman)

This one raises the stakes a little. Janet Leigh, just two years into her film career, has a real kid (not fake babies like Barbara Stanwyck), and a real threat to her happy, stable relationship (not a horny angel like Cary Grant) in the form of noir hero Robert Mitchum. Working as a secret comparison-shopper for a rival department store, she accidentally gets Mitchum fired. Forced into near homelessness without a job, he doesn’t whine about it, instead takes the opportunity to stalk Janet before departing to pursue his dream job of building sailboats. Janet tries to convince herself she’s happy with her extremely boring long-term guy (Wendell Corey, Stewart’s buddy in Rear Window, costar of The Furies), whom her little boy dislikes, but eventually she falls for our Mitchum. There’s some junk about an overpriced toy train which she buys for her store, then returns, then he buys for the boy, then the boy returns to give the money back to Mitchum when he finds out Mitchum is broke. It’d be a decent subplot if the kid himself (also in The Narrow Margin a few years later) hadn’t been unbearably crappy.

Don Hartman was writing Hope/Crosby Road movies before he followed Preston Sturges into directing. This was the middle of his five-year directing career. No word what he did after (besides die in 1958). Movie is full of arbitrarily placed mirrors and stupid framing (there’s a joke about a girl roller-skating on the ice rink, but her skates are blocked from view by a park bench), but is pretty watchable just for our two stars.

All three movies got 1990’s remakes: Holiday Affair made for TV from the director of Police Academy 5Bishop’s (Preacher’s) Wife from Penny Marshall starring Denzel and Whitney… and Xmas in CT from director Arnold Schwarzenegger (his only film) with a cast too baffling to list (plus a rumored 2009 remake with Jenn. Garner).

I always feel like I’m missing something when I watch a movie by one of the Great Classic Hollywood Auteur Directors like Hawks. But I didn’t worry about it much this time… worried instead about the mild sexual undertones of a movie where the leading man is helping search for the leading woman’s kitty, while she is helping search for his bone. No wonder they fall in love completely unprovoked in the final scene.

Grant is a timid professor working on his dinosaur skeleton, engaged to marry an uptight girl, and Hepburn is a completely free, intelligent but breezily unaware-acting rich socialite determined to keep Grant occupied enough that he can’t get married. They were both wonderful in this, and the writing is super, and it’s a joy to watch, but as Katy pointed out, it’s a little TOO screwball. Grant stutters nervously and Hepburn talks over everybody and there’s just no stopping or even slowing down. It’s a blessing that there’s no incidental music cluttering up the soundtrack further. So it’s a bit tiring to watch, but still a magnificent comedy.

IMDB says the movie was a flop, and Hawks and Hepburn both lost jobs because of it. A missed reference to The Awful Truth, and I can’t believe neither Katy nor I noticed that George was the same dog as Mr. Smith in that movie. Grant and Hepburn were both terrific, and Charlie Ruggles (again playing a major) was funnier than in the Lubitsch pictures. Also good: a monocled german named Fritz (Fritz Feld played bit character parts in hundreds of movies) and Aunt Random (80 year old May Robson). Among the Hawksian favorite themes (via Senses of Cinema) found in the movie: nicknaming (KH starts calling CG Mr. Bone), screwing with gender conventions (KH has the more masculine, take-charge character) and social norms.

Wikipedia says it was (arguably) the “first work of fiction, aside from pornography, to use the word gay in a homosexual context.”

Didn’t learn a terrible lot from P.Bog’s audio commentary, but gained a greater appreciation for the movie just by watching (actually listening) to it again, with Peter going on about how great everything is. One gem: “It’s easier to watch on a big screen because you see it bigger.”

What a wonderful coincidence that I watch You’re Never Too Young, and then find out the next day that the film it remade is on Turner Classic.

Robert Osbourne introduced as a screwball comedy, but the only thing screwball here is the premise. Movie is played as a straight, semi-romantic comedy. Same story as the Lewis flick but minus the jewel thief and with a sex reversal (and predictably there’s no equivalent to the Dean Martin character). So Ginger Rogers is the scalp-massager lured to an apartment under a false premise which gets her to leave town and have to pose as a kid to afford a ticket. She hides out in Ray Milland’s room, same thunderstorm and morning discovery scene, then has to keep up the ruse so Ray won’t get in trouble and kicked out of the military. Again, a happy ending with Ray getting his wish to be sent on active duty (makes more sense in the nationalistic war-ragin’ 40’s than in the 1955 remake) and happening to meet a finally-acting-her-own-age Ginger on the train platform (where she gives him a Katy-disapproved line about how all some girls want is a letter from their husbands-abroad every couple weeks).

Cute movie, with some major Creepiness Issues (Ginger cuddling up to Ray, wanting him while pretending to be a little girl and calling him “uncle”). Not the madcap funhouse of the remake, though… no Dean songs (they’re not missed) or speedboat chases, choral performances or marching band shenanigans. Turning the all-girls school into a military academy surprisingly doesn’t change much. Some scenes are very similar, like the long-distance call at the phone switchboard (though Jerry ups the humor with his nutty dancing and a voice-dubbing stunt). I’m sure there’s some auteurist reason why I should prefer the original to the remake, but sorry, I sorta don’t.

This came out a full decade before Ginger Rogers had a lot more fun playing a little girl in Monkey Business (another movie comparison which does this film no favors), and TWO decades before Ray Milland acquired his X-RAY EYES. Back in the 40’s he was cast not for the x-ray eyes but because he is an effective leading man, and an exact cross between Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Wilder sez: “I wrote the part of the major for Cary Grant. I always wanted him in one of my pictures, but it never worked out.”

15-year-old little Lucy would grow up to play the love interest in the remake. Ray’s meddling fiancee (and Lucy’s big sister) was Rita Johnson (The Big Clock, Here Comes Mr. Jordan). The strict colonel (Lucy’s father) was Edward Fielding, who managed to portray military men, doctors, ministers and shopkeepers in over 70 films in the 1940’s despite a fatal heart attack halfway through the decade. Ginger Rogers’ mom, in her only screen appearance, played Ginger Rogers’ mom. Guy who gets a scalp massage at the beginning was Robert Benchley, the Jaws author’s grandfather. The young high-school age kids were actually 22, 21 and 16 (x2). That’s more accurate casting than the remake managed to get. The one familiar-looking boy had played Rudy in Shop Around The Corner, the kid the shop owner takes out for Christmas dinner in the final scene.

And what do I know about Billy Wilder? Not very much! Just enough to see plot parallels between this and Some Like It Hot. Saw none of the cynicism for which he’s known, but Wilder explains: “I was very careful. I set out to make a commercial picture I wouldn’t be ashamed of, so my first picture as a director wouldn’t be my last.”

Internet says the screenwriter invented the bad pickup line “Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”.

I’d heard this was one of those forgotten comic masterpieces, have to say I was underwhelmed. Humor and references seem state-of-the-art to 1957 – I got Groucho’s “you bet your life” cameo but probably missed a lot more.

an alarmed Tony Randall:

In high cinemascope color, a cross between Tashlin’s cartoony style, an advertisement (since our protagonist is an ad-man) and a regular 60’s comedy (Tash was ahead of his time). Tony Randall (from Let’s Make Love) is our ad-man, who makes a deal with superstar Rita Marlowe (Jayne “The Girl Can’t Help It” Mansfield). She’ll do a bunch of ads for his makeup company client, saving him his job (and eventually earning him an unwanted promotion to president) if he’ll publically pretend to be her new boyfriend to make her ex, Bobo Branigansky, want her back. The ex, also a TV star, sort of a Hercules/Tarzan type, is played by Mickey Hargitay, a bodybuilder who would play Tarzan for real three years later. Betsy Drake (not a big star, best known for being Cary Grant’s wife throughout the 50’s) plays Tony’s pissed-off fiancee who threatens to leave him over the whole Rita thing, and 16-yr-old Lili Gentle (one of her only movie roles) is Tony’s excitable niece, a bit Rita fan.

a very red Lili Gentle:

It’s all about knowing where we belong, being happy with our lot in life, finding true love, and making fun of television. Tony and the president of the ad company (John Williams of Dial M For Murder) end up a farmer and a gardener, and Tony’s boss (Henry Jones of 3:10 To Yuma and Vertigo), a born ad-man, ends up an ad-man. Joan Blondell (star of 1930’s musicals, Nightmare Alley) has an interesting part as Rita’s washed-up assistant who yearns for the life she could’ve had with the love of her youth, a milkman, and gets Rita thinking about her own young love, George Schmidlap (Groucho, below).


Katy somewhat liked it, but I have a feeling she’s about done with Frank Tashlin comedies, so I’ll save Artists and Models for another time and go back to the always reliable Billy Wilder (although she didn’t like Ace in the Hole either, hmmm).

check out Rita and her matching poodle: