An update of one of my earliest entries. Practically all I wrote last time was “funniest movie ever, when drinking.”
Stubborn failed inventor Joel McRea (fresh off Sullivan’s Travels) is in love with his wife Claudette Colbert (puffy-cheeked oscar-winner, played the modern girlfriend in The Smiling Lieutenant). Thanks to a random cash infusion by the Weenie King (below), she’s able to leave him and go searching for a new husband, a rich one, so she can support Joel’s ridiculous airplane net idea.
Along the way she meets… William “Muggsy” Demarest!
And other members of the Ale & Quail club, who torment her until she almost crawls into bed with this extremely rich Rockefeller stand-in (played by former megaphone crooner Rudy Vallee, who would appear in two more Sturges movies)
Ah, but Joel also got random cash from the Weenie King and flew down to intercept her. He’s caught in a web of lies and ends up an object of lust of Rudy’s flighty sister Mary Astor (who was on a roll, having just won an oscar and starred in The Maltese Falcon)
Toto ain’t too happy with this, since he was after Mary Astor before Joel arrived.
Uh oh, Joel and Claudette are still in love. How can we keep nice rich guy Rudy from being disappointed and keep our happy-again couple from returning to their life of poverty?
Easy: Joel and Claudette are both identical twins, and their twins marry the lusty megawealthy siblings for an extremely goofy happy ending!
Katy wasn’t too sure about the goofy happy ending, because she’s unable to be satisfied by any comedy that does not star Reese Witherspoon (see also My Man Godfrey). We both thought Joel needed to lighten up a bit. It’s hard to be the straight man.
One of the least jokey of Sturges’s films (up there with Unfaithfully Yours), but makes up for that by being completely wonderful. Katy and I watched together for the first time. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t help but jump when Sullivan says how much he wants to make O Brother Where Are Thou. No plot overview needed, watched it enough times.
William “Muggsy” Demarest, one of my favorites, plays the same type as always. More prominent in this movie are the butler and valet, Eric Blore and Robert Grieg, who were apparently professional butler-actors throughout the 30’s and 40’s. Veronica Lake was 21 when this was shot, looks younger. As famous as I thought she was, I’ve only heard of three of her movies (also The Blue Dahlia and I Married a Witch). Looks like after the 40’s, she switched careers from acting to drinking. I mainly know Joel McCrae from this, but apparently he was in a bunch of westerns. The poor “colored chef”, Charles R. Moore, has 100+ movie roles, all of them listed as porter, driver, bootblack, elevator operator or prisoner. Lot of in-film shouts-out to Capra and Lubitsch, who at this time were working on Meet John Doe and To Be or Not to Be.
Todd McCarthy calls Sturges “the first screenwriter to decisively break through as a director”… guess I never realized that’d never happened before 1940. Now it happens all the time (see Synecdoche New York).
The DVD commentary starts out funny, mostly a good time but sometimes one of them will resort to narrating and saying “that’s so great”. The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer doc is better, with a full career overview of Sturges, going into the whole post-Conquering Hero part of his life which I had wondered about – it’s sad stuff.
Ah, Preston Sturges movies… always worth watching over and over.
You’d think I’d really know who Henry Fonda is, but you’d be wrong. Anyway, now after this and Return of Frank James, I could probably pick him out of a lineup. Terrific, funny cast between him, Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Coburn as the card shark and William Demarest (the dad in Morgan’s Creek) as Muggsy. Writing is at least as good as the acting… was beaten for an oscar by a Robert Montgomery / Claude Rains comedy.
Henry’s been up the amazon collecting snakes and meets Stanwyck on the ship back home. They fall in love while she’s conning him out of some money with partner Coburn, and when he finds out about the con he leaves her wanting payback. She reinvents herself as The Lady Eve and gets invited to his family estate via mutual monocled friend Eric Blore (played a valet in Sullivan’s Travels). They get married then she runs off and reappears as her card-playing self to have an “affair” with Henry… the end. Overcomplicated, but a proper comedy should be.
Did Katy like it? Don’t know for sure but I’d think so.
Update Jan 2015: Katy definitely likes it.