Columbia has reached into its vaults and resurrected four screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s.Jean Arthur is first served up here in two films;one of the more well known actresses of the genre.It has been said Arthur is the genre's best exponent,but actresses like Rosalind Russell(also featured) and Carole Lombard,among others,also made a good name for themselves in this category.
The first film is If Only You Could Cook,with Jean Arthur,Herbert Marhsall,Leo Carillo and Lionel Stander.This Dec/35 film has Marshall as a big car designer who is not quite kosher with his upcoming society wedding.He goes for a walk in the park and meets up with Arthur who is looking through the want ads for a job.She mistakes him as one like herself and Marshall tags along with Arthur's idea to become a cook and a butler.Along the way Marshall falls big for Arthur but their positions as cook and butler are eventually outed when Marhsall's identity is discovered.Marshall is (happily)hijacked away from his wedding by he and Arthur's employer(Carillo) and he and Arthur are finally brought together,forever.It's a decent film for its time but the complications get a little thin here and there.I give it a 3-31/2 stars.71 minutes.
The second Arthur vehicle is the Mar/40 Too many Husbands.Along with Arthur is Fred MacMurray and Melvyn Douglas.It seems MacMurray went on a fishing trip and was lost at sea and considered dead.Arthur married his business partner Douglas.However a disheveled MacMurray re-appears,to the chagrin of his ex wife and ex partner Douglas.Now comes the hard part;explaining to Fred what has taken place since he was gone.You know that won't sit well and it doesn't,but Arthur is suddenly enjoying the attention of two men after her affections and she can't make up her mind which to choose.This wacky scenario plays itself out throughout the rest of the film and in the end she is forced to choose by the courts.Even after THE decision,Arthur subtly lets the other man left behind know that she still wants his attentions too.The film ends with both men dancing at the same time with Arthur.This film is a step up from the previous one,thanks to a good cast of actors really giving it all they have.I give it four stars.81 minutes.
The third entry is My Sister Eileen,Sept/42.which stars Rosalind Russell,Janet Blair,Brian Aherne and George Tobias.Russell is an aspiring writer and her sister Blair is an aspiring actress in their Ohio hometown.They both go to New York and move into a basement flat,trying to make good.Their living room window looks up to the street level and between all the characters there,their fellow tenants and the building of the subway below,whose explosions rock the apartment regularly,it is a nightmare situation.Rosalind's pretty sister attracts alot of suitors and hangars on,while Russell submits her manuscript to a magazine she detests.The editor,Aherne,likes her submission so much he quits because of his publishers objections.Life gets crazier and crazier for the pair when their parents drop by to take them back home.In the meantime Aherne has fallen hard for Russell and her submission is finally accepted along with a $250.00 cheque.Aherne also promises to hook her sister up with some theatrical contacts.As everyone leaves the apartment some construction workers pop up from the floor;Columbia's own three knuckleheads.The entire scenario of the crazy flat and the folks that come in and out of it gets a little thin after a while.Three stars,95 min.
The last entry is She Wouldn't say Yes,Nov/45,starring Russell along with Percy Kilbride(the future Pa Kettle),the affable Charles Winninger,Lee Bowman and Adele Jurgens.Russell stars as a straight laced psychiatrist who loves being in control and has no problems,she can see,of her own.She practices beside her father Winninger,who is a GP.As the film opens Russell keeps bumping into Bowman,literally,and she is getting peeved with its regularity.Bowman is a soldier off to war and he of course is immediately smitten with Russell.He wants her as his bride but it will take the rest of the film to convince her of that.In the meantime Bowman,who is a cartoonist and has created a popular character called the Nixie,is well known to just about everyone he meets,other than Russell.He ends up enlisting the help of her Dad,butler and a friend judge to finally get them both wed.At first Russell doesn't know she has been tricked into marrying Bowman and when the truth comes out she is beside herself.When Bowman leaves,ostensibly for good,Winninger accompanies him on the train.But Winninger has pulled a fast one and he has gotten Russell there too and she and Bowman embrace,happily ever after.This is the best of the two Russell entries.Bowman leaves one a little flat as her leading man,but the other cast members are on top of their game.I give this a 3 1/2-4 stars,87 minutes.Special watch:keep an eye out for a rare screen appearance of Athur Q Bryan as a train passenger,the original voice of Elmer Fudd!
All films here are in tremendous shape and are clear and crisp.Extras include a /46 Columbia short called Ain't love Cuckoo.Watch for many Columbia players you may have seen many a time in any given Three stooges or other Columbia short.Also included are the trailers.
All in all a wonderful release of some obscure but nonetheless good period comedies from Columbia's vaults,all on two DVDs.I am kind of partial to Arthur's performances over Russell,but there is something in all four of these films for everyone.Recommended.