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FOOLS FOR SCANDAL (director: Mervyn Leroy; screenwriter: Herbert Fields/Joseph Fields, Irving Brecher/based on the play Return Engagement by Nancy Hamilton, James Shute, Rosemary Casey; cinematographer: Ted Tetzlaff; editor: William Holmes; music: Adolph Deutsch/Rodgers and Hart; cast: Carole Lombard (Kay Winters), Fernand Gravet (Rene), Ralph Bellamy (Phillip Chester), Allen Jenkins (Dewey Gibson), Isabel Jeans (Lady Paula Malverton), Marie Wilson (Myrtle, Kay’s maid), Ottola Nesmith (Agnes), Tempe Pigott (Bessie, cook), Norma Varden (Cicely), Elspeth Dudgeon (Cynthia), Michael Romanoff (Party Guest); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mervyn Leroy; Warner Bros; 1938)
A misfire screwball comedy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A misfire screwball comedy. Too many lame jokes over mistaken identities (trying to channel the 1936 My Man Godfrey) and a whiny unappealing male romantic lead, Fernand Gravet, sink this contrived story. Even the presence of the bubbly Carole Lombard, in her only film for Warner Bros., can’t save this dud. Director Mervyn Leroy (“I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang”/”Little Caesar”/”Five Star Final”)shows why comedy is not his forte, as he can’t prevent things from becoming leaden and unbelievable. It’sbased on the unproduced play Return Engagement by Nancy Hamilton, James Shute, and Rosemary Casey. The inept screenplay is by the brothers Herbert and Joseph Fields, who prior to this film never wrote a screwball comedy and prove they don’t have an ear for that genre

Hollywood movie star Kay Winters (Carole Lombard) is in London making a film, when she takes the weekend off to go incognito to vacation in Paris. Kay meets in the street Rene (Fernand Gravet), who is wearing evening clothes and offers to show her the real Paris. She doesn’t know he’s an impoverished French marquis and he doesn’t know that she’s a wealthy famous American actress. Charmed by his French accent, Kay skips her dinner party given by Lady Paula Malverton (Isabel Jeans) and spends the day sightseeing by cab with Rene and in the evening they dine at the same restaurant where Lady Malverton has brought her guests. Kay skips out on Rene when seeing the gossip-monger Lady Malverton, leaving him a note to meet her the next day at the fountain in Montmartre. But he oversleeps amd misses their meeting. When Rene learns Kay returned to London and from his cabbie learns she’s a Hollywood star, he follows her to London with his roommate (Allen Jenkins) and arrives at her house while she’s giving a masquerade party with the guests wearing animal heads. Kay invites him to stay for dinner. This gives Rene an opportunity to show off his talent as a cook when he makes his specialty, crepes suzette. The incensed household cook quits on the spot, and Rene moves into Kay’s house as he maneuvers himself into being the replacement cook. Lady Malverton discovers this and tells her friends and the reporters, and Kay’s reputation comes into question. But Rene refuses to leave, which makes Kay upset with him.

In the meantime Phillip Chester (Ralph Bellamy), Kay’s square American insurance businessman boyfriend, proposes to her, and even though she doesn’t love him decides to accept. It’s then up to Rene to spoil their marriage plans and get Kay to admit she loves him. That Rene accomplishes his mission and the Bellamy character is once again made the sap in a sitcom film, was hardly pleasing, funny or credible.

The large budget Fools for Scandal proved to be a rare box-office dud for Lombard.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”