The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936) Stephen Roberts

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  “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” falls into a small, exclusive and unofficial sub-genre called comedy-mystery films. The RKO production is clearly a carbon copy of the much more popular and superior Thin Man series.  It is a small group of films, though generally entertaining even if most are not outright classics. The idea behind these films is to have a lot of snappy banter between the husband and wife and a murder or two for them to solve, nothing gory or to intricate to get in the way of the overall lightness of the affair.    

    Along with the five Nick and Nora films, there is the FAST series, “Fast and Furious”, “Fast Company” and “Fast and Loose.” Surprisingly, the husband and wife detective team in this series was never played twice by the same pair of actors. We also have “Mr. and Mrs. North” with Gracie Allen, “A Night to Remember” with Brian Adhere and Loretta Young and more recently, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in his 1994 homage to Hammett’s sleuths, in “Manhattan Murder Mystery.”

Ex Mrs Bradford-VHS1   Of course, if the movies do it, you can bet television would reproduce it. Shows like “Hart to Hart” and small screen versions of “Mr. and Mrs. North” and “Nick and Nora” would follow. By the way, there is a great article over at C.K. Dexter Haven’s Hollywood Dreamland that goes into more detail on this topic and is certainly worth checking out. Also, check out CK’s own review of “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford.”

   Along with Mr. Powell as Dr. Lawrence Bradford, we have here the ever-charming Jean Arthur as Paula, the ex -Mrs. Bradford of the title. The script is by Anthony Veiller based on a story by James Edward Grant and directed by Stephen Roberts. Roberts career goes back to the silent days. His works include “The Story of Temple Drake” and “Star of Midnight”, another reworking of “The Thin Man” only here the couple are boyfriend and girlfriend though not surprisingly, it also stars William Powell, along with Ginger Rogers (Powell seemed to have a lock on this kind of role). “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” was Roberts final film; he died only months later after its release.

    Dr. Bradford is involved in a case of two jockeys who are mysteriously murdered. With the help of his eccentric somewhat ditzy mystery writer ex-wife Paula, the couple goes about solving the crimes though the good doctor becomes a prime suspect himself before unraveling the case and clearing his good name. It is all very light and entertaining though the level of wit is nowhere near the Thin Man films. Some of the comedy is telegraphed so far in advance that you get the message before it is delivered; still Powell and Arthur are a treat to watch, though Ms. Arthur comes across as too smart an actress to be convincing as featherbrained Paula. Watching her in this film, I started thinking how interesting it would be to see how she would have faired if she played Nora Charles in “The Thin Man.” 

     Powell is an old hand at this kind of story, having played Nick Charles for the second time, in “After the Thin Man” that same year for Paramount. A few years earlier, he was Philo Vance in a series of detective movies including “The Canary Murder Case” which coincidently had a young Jean Arthur as a showgirl. Nineteen Thirty Six was actually a big year for Powell. Along with the second Thin Man film, he also co-starred in two classic screwball comedies “My Man Godfrey” with Carole Lombard, “Libeled Lady” with Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy. Additionally, he appeared in “The Great Ziegfeld.” Jean Arthur made a big splash that same year in Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”

    The film also co-stars Grant Mitchell, James Gleason and Robert Armstrong who most will recognize as Carl Denham from the original 1933 version of “King Kong.”  While “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” is entertaining, ultimately it is disappointing with a flat script, old jokes, a flimsy mystery and a sense that you have seen it all before and better done.     

    “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” was released on VHS years some ago as part of the RKO Collection, however with no DVD release; it is now among the missing.

Too Many Husbands (1940) Wesley Ruggles

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“She’s been a good little wife.”

“….yes, to the both of us”

Jean Arthur’s talents shine in this light, witty, sophisticated comedy.  In “Too Many Husbands” Jean has, well too many husbands, one too many to be exact. Husband number one, Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray), is presumed lost at sea. His widow, Vicky (Jean Arthur) marries Bill’s publishing partner, Henry Lowndes (Melvyn Douglas). At the one-year anniversary of Bill’s disappearance, Henry is having Bill’s office cleaned out and his name removed off the firm’s door. Meanwhile, Vicky’s father who is at home answers a phone call, on the other end of the line is Bill announcing that he is alive! Sound familiar? Well, yes since the premise is similar to the Cary Grant, Irene Dunne film, “My Favorite Wife” which was released in May of 1940 two months after “Too Many Husbands” hit the screen. Only in the Garson Kanin directed movie Cary Grant ends up married with two wives.   Too mnay husbands

The grand reunion is needless to say a confusing one especially for our heroine who soon realizes she loves both men. She in fact loves them so much she cannot make up her mind who she wants to stay married too. Both men compete to win Vicky’ heart hoping that she will dump the other, however, it turns out Vicky is enjoying the attention she is receiving and cannot, or will not, make a decision. The two husbands start to rekindle their friendship and conclude they are being played for saps. They decide to teach Vicky a lesson by disappearing. Unfortunately, she calls the police who uncover that our heroine is a bigamist. The case is brought before the court where the presiding, judge rules who Vicky is officially married to. However, it does not end there since the loser refuses to give up his pursuit of his “wife.” Vicky and the two men pretty much ignore the court’s decision and as the films ends, she and her two “husbands” are dancing the night away as a threesome.

Too Many Husbands poster    “Too Many Husbands” is a fun film with three wonderful and charming performances, directed with a light touch by Wesley Ruggles. Jean Arthur, and a witty script, though are the real reasons to watch this film. She is enchanting and simply seems to be having a good time in the role. Melvyn Douglas provides a stylish touch having already whet his feet with sophisticated comedy having just come from filming Lubitsch’s “Ninoctchka.”  Fred MacMurray is the less sophisticated of the two playing Jack Lemmon to Douglas’s Walter Matthau. MacMurray was fortunate enough to have worked with both Arthur and Carole Lombard. The film opened in March 1940 at Radio City Music Hall and surprisingly, at least to me, did not do well at the box office. The script, written by Claude Binyon, was based on a play called “Home and Beauty”, by W. Somerset Maugham. There are also entertaining performances by Henry Davenport as Vicky’s father, Melville Cooper and in small role as a police officer is Edgar Buchanan.

“Too Many Husbands” is a somewhat more suggestive film than “My Favorite Wife” especially the ending where it seems  Vicky will be continuing to have a relationship with both men. There is also an underlying hint of gay references in the dialogue, when the two husbands are forced to share a bedroom. It is surprising how much the filmmakers were able to slip passed the censors. One wonders if they were too busy paying attention to the bigamy plot letting these other subtle insinuations get by?Jean Arthure photo

As previously mentioned, only a couple of months later the better-known “My Favorite Wife” was released. In another touch of irony, both films were remade years later, “Too Many Husbands” was turned into a musical in 1955 called “Three for the Show” with Betty Grable and Jack Lemmon and “My Favorite Wife” in 1963 as “Move Over, Darling.” This last film has a long history of it own, which is well know. Originally, it was to be a vehicle for Marilyn Monroe co-starring Dean Martin called “Something’s Got to Give.”  Monroe was difficult during the shoot and was fired by 20th Century Fox who then signed Lee Remick as her replacement. Dino walked off the film saying, no offence to Remick but he signed to star with Monroe. Fox rehired Monroe but unfortunately her problems ran deep and was soon found dead of an overdose. Production was shut down and the film was never completed. The story was resurrected a couple years later with Doris Day, James Garner and Polly Bergen, and now called “Move Over, Darling.”

“Too Many Husbands” is a pleasant diversion not reaching the level of screwball greats, still it has aged well with Ms. Arthur’s character looking more modern and certainly more liberated than most female characters of the day. The film has recently been released on DVD as part of the “Icons of Screwball Comedy Volume 1.”

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) Frank Capra

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    Frank Capra takes on the big city slickers vs. the small town yokels in this depression era comedy led by Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds and the always amazing Jean Arthur as Louise “Babe” Bennett. Capra was awarded his second Oscar for directing this 1936 classic. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper) Best Screenplay (Robert Riskin in his fifth collaboration with Capra) and Best Recording.  The story originally appeared in serial form in the Saturday Evening Post, written by Clarence Budington Kelland.

    Longfellow Deeds, greeting card poet and tuba player eccentric has a nice peaceful life in the small New England town of Mandrake Falls, Vermont. Life is turned upside down when his late uncle, multi-millionaire Martin Semple leaves him an inheritance of twenty million dollars. Seduced by the estates attorney, John Cedar (Douglass Dumbriller) who plucks Longfellow out of his safety net of a little town and into the big bad city of New York.

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    Cedar, of the law firm, Cedar, Cedar, Cedar and Budington is a scheming rodent of a lawyer who will eventually attempt to get Deed’s to turn over to him power of attorney in order to hide his financial thievery. By the way, note the in-joke with the use of the last name of Budginton in the law firm name, which is the same as the middle name of the author of the original story. Cedar hires former newspaperman Cornelius Cobb (Lionel Stander) to keep other reporters away from Deeds; however, a foxy Louise “Babe” Bennett (Jean Arthur) outwits Cobb when she poses as a destitute woman named Mary Dawson, who has been pounding the concrete sidewalks everyday in vain, searching for a job. She gains Longfellow’s confidence who get “a fools notion about saving a lady in distress”, and begins writing a series of newspaper articles exploiting his eccentric behavior (feeding donuts to horses), anointing him with the name of “Cinderella Man.”

     Deeds finds himself exploited and the laughing stock of the big city, all due to the constant barrage of newspaper articles by Ms. Bennett. Unexpectedly, Mary/Babe begins to fall in love with our innocent hero and comes to regret her writing the uncaring exploitive articles. Deeds, fed up with the treatment and ridicule he has received and is ready to head back to Mandrake Falls when an evicted farmer breaks into his mansion, verbally attacking him for being insensitive cold hearted, spending thousands on parties when everyday people all over are starving. Instead of feeding doughnuts to horses, how about giving those doughnuts to needy hungry people. The man suddenly pulls out a gun threatening to shoot Deeds. Fortunately, the farmer comes to his senses, realizing what he is about to do, he breaks down, dropping the gun as Deeds, who never wanted the fortune, finally realizes here is a way to give his money away and do good in the process. He will give thousands of homeless farmer’s farmland to work, and if they work the land for three years, it will be theirs to keep.

    After Cedar becomes aware of Deeds plan, and realizes he will lose control of millions of dollars, he attempts to have Deeds declared mentally unbalanced in court, by manipulating the only other living relative of the millionaire uncle to take the money away from Deeds before he gives it away to poor people. At the same time Deeds finds out the truth about Mary/Babe and that the fantasy girl he fell in love with has betrayed him.

deeds     Deed is put on trial and the predator lawyers attack with a vengeance, to the extent of bringing into court two eccentric old ladies from Deeds hometown to corroborate his peculiar behavior even back in Mandrake Falls. Deeds meanwhile, has sunk into a deep depression losing all hope in mankind, even refusing an attorney to defend him. The strong court case against Deeds begins to fall apart when the farmers and Babe, who declares her love for him in open court, all begin to come to his defense and he himself begins to realize there are good honest decent people in the world.

     I have always had ambivalent feelings about Frank Capra’s work, however I found “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” to be one of Capra’s great films, with his classic theme about the common man, overcoming greedy parasites and underhandedness, in this case, from lawyers and newspapers. The film still rings true today and I can imagine it must have had an especially good reception with the depression era population of the 1930’s getting to see a regular guy stand up and win against rich corrupt forces. Capra’s film is just one of many films during the depression to condemn the big city, filled with greedy manipulators and parasites (Vidor’s “Our Daily Bread” is another) vs. the small town filled with friendly genteel folks, “democratic” as an old man in Mandrake Falls states early in the film.    

    Capra’s women, “Babe”, in “Mr. Deeds” and Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck in the more serious social drama, “Meet John Doe”), are small town girls who come to, and were “corrupted” by the big bad city. Both “Babe” and Ann were newspaper reporters, a cynic’s occupation in many of Capra’s films.  There was also Clark Gable’s fast talking disparager who had little use for facts in “It Happened One Night” and Robert Williams Stew Smith in “Platinum Blonde”, who foolishly marries the rich Jean Harlow while his real love co-reporter (Loretta Young) looks on. Interestingly enough, the phrase “Cinderella Man” is used in both “Platinum Blonde” and in “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.”  

    The screenplay was written by Robert Riskin, one of five films he worked on with Capra. Others include “Broadway Bill”, “Lady for a Day”, “You Can’t it With You”, “Meet John Doe”,  “American Madness”, and the Academy Award winning “It Happened One Night.”  Capra and Riskin’s relationship was convoluted, a love-hate collaboration developed after many years of Capra taking credit for Riskin’s work on many of their films. Capra in his autobiography downplayed Riskin’s contributions to some of their greatest films, this long after Riskin’s death. Looking to preserve his reputation, Capra put forth his one man, one film theory claiming that many of his screenwriters, Riskin included, did their best work only with him.capra-riskin

    Legend has it that Riskin once handed Capra a blank sheet of paper and told him to go ahead and “put the famous Capra touch on that.”  In the final years of Riskin’s life, wheelchair bound due to a stroke, he remained loyal to Capra, despite Capra never coming visit him. He admonished fellow screenwriter Jo Swerling when he once commented to Riskin that it was not right Capra never came to visit him, insisting that Capra was his best friend. If so, Capra did not have any reservations about down grading Riskins contributions to their classic works. Fay Wray, Riskin’s wife for the last thirteen years of his life, said while many of Riskin’s friends came to visit him in those final days, Capra was not among them. An uncharitable turn by a man who cherished his reputation as a filmmaker whose films carried the wholesome message on the basic goodness human nature.    

   Who can play the wholesome ordinary man better than Cary Cooper? No one that I can think of and as for Jean Arthur, I can never say enough nice things about this naturalistic comedic actress who Capra would use again two more times. The film opened to good reviews, upon its initial release at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. Grahame Greene, then a critic for The Spectator  called it Capra’s best film. Along with the previously mentioned Oscars, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”,  also won The New York Film Critics award as the best film of the year.  

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    The film was “remade” in 2002 with Adam Sandler in the role of Longfellow Deeds. Sandler’s Deeds runs a pizza shop in Mandrake Falls, which means not even the writers of the remake  believed Sandler could write greeting card level poetry. Of course, the inheritance is upped from twenty million to billionaire status and the humor level has been brought down to Sandler’s sub-basement floor level. Other than a lack of wit, charm, intelligence and a heart, there is really nothing wrong with the remake. Why do they bother? Oh yeah, Greed, money, and manipulation by those big city parasites.

The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) Sam Wood

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  So who is the queen of screwball comedy, Carole Lombard or Jean Arthur? Arguably, it could be either one. No one could argue with Lombard’s credentials in such films as “My Man Godfrey”, “Twentieth Century”, “Hand Across the Table” and “Nothing Sacred.” Jean Authur’s batting average is a winner too with “You Can’t Take it with You”, “The More the Merrier”, “Easy Living” and “The Devil in Miss Jones.”  Tough choice. After recently viewing “Easy Living” and now ‘The Devil and Miss Jones”, I am not making any definitive statement. Truthfully, I am just happy that we have both works by these talented ladies to enjoy.                     Norman Krasna whose work spans from the 1930’s to the 1960’s wrote “The Devil and Miss Jones.” Krasna additionally wrote the screenplays for films like “Bombshell”, “Hands Across the Table” Wife vs. Secretary”, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, “White Christmas” and “Sunday in New York.” The film was produced by Ms. Arthur’s then husband Frank Ross, and released by RKO Pictures. devil-and-miss-jones-vhs1

    Multimillionaire and camera shy John Merrick (Charles Coburn) is so rich he cannot even keep track of his holdings and only discovers that he owns Neely’s Department Store when he sees a photo of a stuffed dummy look alike hanging in effigy on the front page of the morning newspaper.  Merrick played to perfection by Coburn decides to go undercover, in his own department store to weed out the union agitators. He takes a job in the shoe department on the fifth floor, the heart of the unrest, however to his shock; Merrick is seen as an incompetent by the section manager, Mr. Hooper (Edmund Gwenn) and is given a low-level job selling slippers instead of shoes. Here he meets salesperson Mary Jones (Jean Arthur) who is in love with union leader Joe O’Brien (Robert Cummings), recently fired due to his unionizing activity. Also on board is Spring Byington, as Elizabeth, an age appropriate love interest for the undercover millionaire.  All believe Merrick is broke; Elizabeth even shares her Tuna popover lunch with him when he informs her that he does not eat lunch, which she believes is just a cover up for him not having any money. Soon Merrick is being included in clandestine union meetings where all assume he is on their side. Through his first hand experience at the store working with and being acquainted with his employees, especially Mary, the grumpy Merrick becomes more compassionate and understanding toward them and their cause.

    The film’s themes center on class distinction, specifically between the rich and the working class, also it looks at the division and treatment between the store’s management and employees. The film is pro-unionist outlook presents management as stiff, uncaring and autocratic. By the end of the film, Merrick is a changed man; he even falls in love with Elizabeth, while his management team comes off as a group of idiotic yes men. 

 devilmissjones1   True, the ending is unrealistic forcing its way to a typical happy Hollywood resolution however “The Devil and Miss Jones” is so charming that it can be easily forgiven for such a menial sin. The movie shines with mostly fine performances, Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn, both received Academy Award nominations for their work. And you have to give Jean Arthur credit for not bolstering her role, letting Coburn shine even though her husband was the producer. Bob Cummings, who was just starting to move up in the cinematic world (the following year he would star in Hitchcock’s “Saboteur”), is somewhat engaging as Arthur’s rabble-rousing boyfriend; I could only take him in small doses. Spring Byington, is sweet and delightful as Coburn’s love interest. Edmund Gwenn, still a few years away from his classic role as Macy’s Santa in “Miracle on 34th Street”, captures the low-level manager type who handed a morsel of authority, judges himself superior to all, treating his employees as disposable trash. The cast also includes S.Z. “Cuddles”Sakall as Merrick’s inept butler and William Demerest as a store detective.

    The chemistry between Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn is unmistakable and worked so well they made two more films together, “The More the Merrier” and “The Impatient Years.” The more I see Arthur the more enticing I find her, and that offbeat sexy voice!

    Oddly enough, staunch conservative Sam Wood directed the pro-union film. Wood’s career started in the silents, where he worked as an assistant to C. B. DeMille and eventually graduated to directing greats like Gloria Swanson in “Under the Lash”, “Her Husbands Trademark”, “Beyond the Rocks” (with Rudolph Valentino)  and  “Don’t Tell Everything (with Wallace Reid) among others. When sound came, Wood’s career continued in high gear with films like “Raffles”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Pride of the Yankees”, “Goodbye Mr. Chips” and the Marx Brothers MGM classics “A Day at the Races” and “A Night at the Opera.” 

    Despite a grand opening at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, “The Devil in Miss Jones” did not do well financially. Whether the socially conscientious pro union theme discouraged some patrons or the growing tension about the U.S. entering World War II (seven months later Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese) that kept patrons away, I’m not sure. It’s possible that during those troubled times a comedy with a serious theme was not what the public was looking for.      

   

 

Jean Arthur on TCM

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To my delight, over the next month  Turner Classic Movies will be  showing some of Jean Arthur’s classic films.  More importantly, for me personally, some of the films I have never seen and am looking forward too.  Since I just wrote about “Easy Living” it is all very timely and I thought I share the upcoming flicks.

Jan 25th (10AM) – The Whole Town’s Talking – Dir. John Ford

Feb 2nd (12:45AM) – You Can’t Take it With You – Dir. Frank Capra

Feb. 3rd (8PM) – The More the Merrier – Dir. George Stevens

Feb. 6th (2PM) – Only Angels Have Wings – Dir. Howard Hawks

Feb. 9th (8PM) – The Devil in Miss Jones – Dir.  Sam Wood

Feb. 18th (9:15AM) Talk of the Town – Dir. George Stevens

Feb. 23rd (5:45PM) Arizona – Dir. Wesley Ruggles 

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Easy Living (1937) Mitchell Leisen

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     Wit. Such a simple word and yet it is so hard to come by in the movies or anywhere else for that matter. If you have been following my blog you will notice I have recently been watching a few films written and or directed by Preston Sturges. What has attracted me to Sturges is that simple three-letter word. His films are full of it. A rare commodity, only found in a handful of films by such filmmakers as Billy Wilder, Ernest Lubitsch and more recently Woody Allen. In a film world full of Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey movies, wit is at a premium.  While I have enjoyed a Will Ferrell or Jim Carrey movie here and there, it was certainly not for any kind of cleverness or wit.  

 easy-living-dvd   This all leads to a 1937 film written by Sturges and directed by Mitchell Leisen called “Easy Living.” A bright and charming movie bursting with tons of that three letter word. The film stars the superb comedic actress Jean Arthur as Mary Smith, a young woman who literally has a fur coat dropped on her head as she rides a double decker bus in Manhattan while on her way to work. This was a result of a fight between Bank Financier J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold) aka “The Bull of Wall Street” and his wife Jenny ((Mary Nash). Ball. Fed up with his wife’s extravagant spending J. B.throws Jenny’s latest purchase, a $58,000 fur coat, off the penthouse landing and right onto Mary’s head riding on the bus below. When they meet later in the film, Mary tries to give the coat back but Ball tells her to keep it, plus he buys her a new hat since her old one was crushed when the coat landed on her head. This incident sparks a series of  incidents that result in Mary being fired from her clerical job at a magazine. It also gives the impression to many people, especially to Mr. Louis Louis, the owner of the Hotel Louis, and in debt to Banker Ball, that Mary is Ball’s mistress. As a result, Louis Louis now invites Mary to live in the hotel penthouse free of charge, thinking Ball will surely not foreclose on his hotel if his mistress is living there. Before she knows it, Mary is being offered free cars and jewelry from other customers indebted to Ball. Essentially, still broke and no food in her penthouse kitchen, Mary goes to the Automat diner for a cheap meal. Here’s she meets John Ball Jr. (Ray Milland) who not wanting to live off his father’s money is working at the Automat. Mary is unaware of John Jr.’s background and thinks of him as just another poor working Joe. When John spots Mary eating very little, he attempts to give her some free food and is caught by the store security. A free for all breaks out when Ball Jr. and the security guard get into a tussle.  Without giving too much more away let me say that the incidents just keep piling on including a potential  crash of the stock market.

“Easy Living” is a delightfully swift comedy set during the depression and it must have been amusing and maybe even hopeful to depression audiences as Sturges takes plenty of pokes at the upper class and their so called “problems.” As with many of Sturges films,  written or directed, there is a combination of high verbal wit and low level slapstick. The fight scenes in the Automat are pure laugh out loud funny.

Jean Arthur is charming as Mary Smith and makes the entire movie a joy to watch. Arthur was at the beginning of the peak years of her career. Only two years earlier, she starred with Edward G. Robinson in John Ford’s amusing “The Whole Town’s Talking.” The following year in 1936, she would make her first film with director Frank Capra in “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.” Two other Capra classics would follow, “You Can’t Take it With You”, and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in 1938 and 1939, respectively. Among Arthur’s other works are C.B. DeMille’s “The Plainsman”, Howard Hawk’s “Only Angels Have Wings”, Frank Borzage “History is Made at Night”, Billy Wilder’s “A Foreign Affair”, and three films with George Stevens,  “Talk of the Town”,  “The More the Merrier” and her final film “Shane.”  Shy and reclusive, Arthur prematurely retired from acting, though she did make sporadic appearances on TV and some theater work. The theater work usually ended with disastrous results due to her shyness and severe bouts of stage fright.   John Oller in his biography of Arthur writes about one of  Ms. Arthur’s disastrous theater attempts, the 1967 Broadway production of “The Freaking Out of Stephanie Blake”, which closed during previews.  The production was hindered with props that did not work, pot-smoking stagehands and actors who did not show up for work. According to the author, in one incident Arthur got down on her knees and begged the preview audience to let her leave the stage.  Nevertheless, Arthur’s work on the screen is memorable and should be better appreciated today than it is. Along with Carole Lombard, Arthur represents the quintessential screwball  heroine, spirited, confident and uniquely American.   easy_living

   Arthur’s co-star, Edward Arnold, as the magnate J.B. Ball is full of himself and is the source of much of the slapstick humor in the film. Though he died at a relatively young 66 years old, his career spans 50 years in film dating back to 1916. Ray Milland as Mary’s love interest and J.B.’s son holds his own and has some incredible funny scenes. When he made “Easy Living”, Milland’s career was on the verge of becoming a full-blown star.  Also, in the cast is William Demarest, who would become a regular member of  Sturges stock company. Demarest plays a gossip columnist here who is responsible for spreading  the rumors about Mary being J.B.’s mistress.

Credit should also be given to director Mitchell Leisen, who despite a career that has been criticized by both Sturges and Billy Wilder is responsible for some respectable films,. In additions to “Easy Living” Leisen directed “No Man of Her Own”, Hold Back the Dawn”, “Remember the Night” and “Midnight.”  “Easy Living” is a wonderful screwball comedy that should be on everyone’s ‘to watch list.’

 Here’s a clip from  Easy Living and here is here is another.