Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Laura G ""

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Laura G

Laura G. runs the lovely blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, which is a must for any classic film fans!
She can be found on Twitter here:

IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK is a Depression-era charmer starring Jean Arthur, Herbert Marshall, and Leo Carrillo. When out-of-work Arthur spots a dejected Marshall on a park bench, she assumes he's also jobless and suggests they pose as husband and wife to win a position as butler and cook. Marshall is really a wealthy auto designer, but he's so taken with Arthur -- who wouldn't be? -- and frustrated with his own life that he willingly goes along with her idea. They end up working for a gangster (Carrillo) with very particular gourmet tastes. This film has been in the shadow of better-known Arthur films, and it's deserving of rediscovery. It's a bit too short, but otherwise it's a great example of a movie made simply to entertain, and it does so wonderfully, with some laugh-out-loud funny moments.

It's available on DVD

JOHNNY DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE is an engaging spin on the Washington, D.C., housing shortage during WWII. A Monogram release, it hasn't had the attention of better-known films on the same topic, such as Columbia's THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943) or the Warner Bros. release THE DOUGHGIRLS (1944), but it's a creative movie with a unique lead performance by French actress Simone Simon. Simon plays Kathie, a French Canadian who arrives in D.C. to work at a defense plant, only to discover her intended roommate has married. Three's a crowd, but Kathie manages instead to sublet an apartment from Johnny (William Terry), who is leaving for military service. Johnny forgets to mention that a number of his friends have keys to the apartment, and one by one they drop in, including Mike (James Ellison) and Jeff (Robert Mitchum), with riotous consequences. Simon combines a pouty innocence with a great way with one-liners, and the final sequence in front of a judge (Alan Dinehart) leads to a hilariously unexpected ending. This film was a terrific discovery.

It's available via Warner Archive

When people think of Dick Powell and the '40s, naturally his career-changing turn as the tough Philip Marlowe in MURDER, MY SWEET (1945) comes to mind. Powell's beautiful comedic work in Rene Clair's comedy-fantasy IT HAPPENED TOMORROW is equally deserving of attention. In this period piece set in the 1890s, Powell plays Larry, who experiences a strange week where he receives early editions of newspapers which predict the future. This enchanting film combines humor, romance, mystery, and nostalgia in equal measure. Those familiar with Powell's noir work know he has a way with a wisecrack, but in IT HAPPENED TOMORROW he also reveals himself as a gifted physical comedian; the movie's hilarious final sequence is brilliantly choreographed and carried off by Powell, who approaches what he believes is his impending doom with humorous resignation. Powell is well matched with lovely Linda Darnell. Highly recommended.

It's available on DVD from Kino.

ONCE MORE, MY DARLING is a relatively little-known film, due in part to being a Universal movie which hasn't played on TV for many years; I suspect its last airing in the U.S. may have been in the late, lamented commercial-free days of American Movie Classics. This is one of a handful of excellent films directed by Robert Montgomery in the late '40s. Montgomery also stars in the film as a well-off attorney turned movie actor, and he's paired with the much younger Ann Blyth as a ditzy debutante who falls head over heels for him. One of the movie's charms is that instead of ignoring that Montgomery was over two decades older than his leading lady, it's faced head-on as a significant story angle, with the age difference somewhat mitigated by the way Blyth chases after Montgomery. (An ad slogan was "Man About Town Meets Girl About Nineteen!") While Blyth is a bit too manic at times, there is wonderful deadpan, snarky humor supplied by Montgomery, Jane Cowl, Charles McGraw, and John Ridgely. My favorite of many great bits of dialogue is when Montgomery asks a family friend how he was in his last movie, and the friend awkwardly responds "Tall. Very tall."

This film very much deserves a release by one of the Universal "MOD" DVD programs. Fingers crossed.

One more Dick Powell film on my list, and it's also another Universal film which has been hidden away from the public for far too long. It has an utterly bizarre plot which works surprisingly well and provides many laughs; one of the poster tag lines was "A picture for people who think they've seen everything!" King, a German shepherd left a fortune by his late owner, is murdered; he comes back to earth in human form as Rex Shepherd (Powell), private investigator, so he can investigate his own murder! As if that's not enough, Rex is assisted by Goldie Harvey (Joyce Holden), who was actually once a racehorse named Golden Harvest. Powell's Rex eats kibble and snarls at cats, and Goldie's purse is a feedbag! Lou Breslow was the credited director, but Holden explained in an interview that the real behind-the-scenes director was Powell, a multi-talented man who would soon go on to be the credited director of several films, starting with SPLIT SECOND (1953).

This is another film which needs a DVD release!


Robert M. Lindsey said...

I haven't seen any of these! I need to get right on that. Thanks.

Laura said...

Hope you'll enjoy, Robert! I've had a great time with all these films. :)

Best wishes,

Laura said...

Just a postscript that YOU NEVER CAN TELL is now available on DVD-R in the Universal Vault series, available exclusively at Amazon.

Best wishes,