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BRIDE CAME C.O.D., THE (director: William Keighley; screenwriters: Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein/based on a story by Kenneth Earland & M.M. Musselman; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Thomas Richards; music: Max Steiner; cast: Cast: James Cagney (Steve Collins), Bette Davis (Joan Winfield), Stuart Erwin (Tommy Keenan), Jack Carson (Allen Bruce), George Tobias (Peewee), Eugene Pallette (Lucius K. Winfield), Harry Davenport (Pop Tolliver), William Frawley (Sheriff McGee), Edward Brophy (Hinkle), William Hopper (Keenan’s Pilot), Harry Holman (Judge Sobler); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William Cagney/Hall B. Wallis; Warner Bros.; 1941)
“At best it amounts to average fare.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

William Keighley (“Each Dawn I Die”/”Torrid Zone”/”The Fighting 69th”) directs an outdated slapstick comedy about a runaway heiress. At best it amounts to average fare. The stars, Bette Davis and James Cagney, disliked this old-fashioned screwball comedy they were saddled with even though both temperamental stars known for feuding with Warners wanted desperately to change the type of roles they previously played: Cagney gangster roles and Davis melodramas. Even though they tried hard to make it work, they never established a good screen chemistry. The screenplay is by the twins Julius and Philip Epstein and it’s based on an original story by Kenneth Earland & M.M. Musselman.

Bette Davis plays oil heiress Joan Winfield who is about to marry Los Angeles nightclub bandleader fortune hunter Allen Bruce (Jack Carson), but radio broadcaster Tommy Keenan (Stuart Erwin) on a slow news night suggests they elope to Las Vegas where they don’t have to wait three days. Tommy announces their elopement on his popular show and makes arrangements with a private charter plane service to fly them there, but the pilot owner Steve Collins’ (James Cagney) only plane is about to be repossessed by a finance company. When Steve learns that Joan’s father Lucius K. Winfield (Eugene Pallette) is against the marriage, he makes a deal with him to kidnap his daughter to Amarillo, Texas, and thereby receive a fee of freight fare, $10 a pound for her, which will pay the finance company the money owed them.

When Joan is alone in the plane and informed by Collins of the kidnapping, she at first tries to bribe him by paying more money than her dad but when that’s refused, she tries to escape by parachute. Collins banks the plane to prevent her jump, but the plane develops problems with all the extra movements and he has to make an emergency landing in the desert. In the morning they discover a nearby former mining town named Bonzana, in California, that is inhabited by only one citizen, an old time miner named Pop Tolliver (Harry Davenport). From hereon you could have written this contrived script yourself, as it follows the usual formulaic conventions whereby the two start out hating each other but then realize they are really in love with each other and wed.

Cagney ends up saving Davis from a bad marriage, which pleased theater audiences at the time making the film one of the year’s top 20 box-office films.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”