(director: George Stevens; screenwriters: story by Edward & Victor Halperin/Glenn Tryon; cinematographer: David Abel; editor: James B. Morley; cast: Stuart Erwin (William Watts), Rochelle Hudson (Cynthia Douglas), Clarence H. Wilson (Clem, District attorney), Pert Kelton (Allie Summers), “Skeets” Gallagher (Bramwell Van Dusen), Burton Churchill (“Big” Barney Nolan), Grady Sutton (Don Beldon, alias of Diker); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro Berman; RKO; 1934)
“An innocuous romantic comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
George Stevens (“Giant”/”Shane”/”Gunga Din”) went from RKO’s short-subject department to direct his first feature-length film, Bachelor Bait. It’s an innocuous romantic comedy, that’s based on the story by Edward & Victor Halperin and written by Glenn Tryon.
After nebbish William Watts (Stuart Erwin) is falsely fired from his job as a clerk in the city marriage bureau, he opens his own “matrimonial” business by advertising his matchmaking skills in the newspaper. William is encouraged by his attractive neighbor Cynthia Douglas (Rochelle Hudson), who secretly has a crush on him and becomes his secretary. Business booms because of William’s uncanny ability as a matchmaker. He’s aided in his business deals by the legal expertise of eccentric part-time taxicab driver/lawyer Bramwell Van Dusen (“Skeets” Gallagher).
“Big” Barney Nolan (Burton Churchill), the crooked president of the Civil Betterment Bureau, tries unsuccessfully to buy out William’s business. When spurned, the irate Nolan orders Clem (Clarence H. Wilson), the bought district attorney, to investigate William.
Meanwhile Van Dusen’s ex-wife, Allie Summers (Pert Kelton), threatens to expose their divorce to the straightlaced William unless she is introduced to a millionaire oilman client bachelor from Oklahoma named Don Beldon (Grady Sutton).
William believes Cynthia to be a good match for his client, who demands an “unsullied” woman, but Allie aggressively pushes herself on the oilman. To get Allie away from the oilman, William takes her on a cruise. This gets Cynthia to think they’re lovers and thereby agrees to marry the oilman.
The comedy revolves around mix-ups, fast deals and a case of false identity used as part of a legal trap. In the end, the gold-digging Allie and the greedy chiseler Nolan are outsmarted by the innocent William and Cynthia, selling the worthless business to Nolan for $25,000 and then getting married when both are convinced they are a good match for each other.
REVIEWED ON 12/24/2009 GRADE: C+