Gregory La Cava seemed to run out of creative steam after the one-two punch of MY MAN GODFREY/’36 and STAGE DOOR/’‘37. This was his next, a minor-key variation on GODFREY, about another rich, and richly eccentric, screwball family. Again, an unemployed, but commonsensical outsider saves them from themselves, but instead of William Powell’s butler-on-the-bum, we get Ginger Rogers. So far, so good. But whereas Powell’s Godfrey had a past (and a present) that made dramatic & comic sense, Ginger’s role is pure contrivance. Likewise the script’s feints at social conscience & political debate (labor troubles at work, communist rhetoric from the chauffeur, a polo playing son), applied rather than organic. Fortunately, La Cava doesn’t push things at us (he was famous for casually rewriting his scripts), and he lets his actors really spark off each other in marvelous two-shots. As the father, Walter Connolly gets to go a round or two with just about the whole cast, and he nails every opportunity, giving the sort of fully rounded portrayal he rarely got a shot at. While a scene on a park bench between Rogers and Tim Holt*, playing the family scion, is a small masterpiece of laisser-faire directing technique. And with the bonus of a sweet turn from young Jack Carson (with ukulele) and a couple of lovebirds who just happen to be Asian (a rare sighting in films at the time), it’s one of those flawed, unfocused films you find yourself rooting for.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Is there another actor with as low a profile as Tim Holt who appeared in so many classic pics? STELLA DALLAS/’37; STAGECOACH/’39; THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS/42; HITLER’S CHILDREN/’43; MY DARLING CLEMENTINE/’46 and THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE/’48. It’s quite a list.