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JOY OF LIVING (director: Tay Garnett; screenwriters: Gene Towne/C. Graham Baker/Allan Scott/Dorothy Fields/Herbert Fields; cinematographer: Joseph Walker; editor: Jack Hively; music: Jerome Kern; cast: Irene Dunne (Maggie Garret), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Daniel Brewster), Lucille Ball (Salina), Alice Brady (Minerva Garret), Guy Kibbee (Dennis Garret), Jean Dixon (Harrison, maid), Eric Blore (Potter), Franklin Pangborn (Orchestra Leader), Billy Gilbert (cafe owner), John Qualen (Oswego), Warren Hymer (Mike, driver), Frank Milan (Bert Pine), Dorothy Steiner (Dotsy Pine); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Tay Garnett/Felix Young; RKO; 1938)
“Tiresome musical screwball comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The tame film, that’s supposed to be zany, about dropping out in the 1930s from the rat race is distinguished only by having its title changed from Joy of Loving for being too risque by the Production Code. Tay Garnett (“Cattle King”/”A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”/”The Postman Always Rings Twice”) is the co-producer and director of this rather tiresome musical screwball comedy. It’s written by Gene Towne, C. Graham Baker, Allan Scott, Dorothy Fields and Herbert Fields.

Maggie Garret (Irene Dunne) is a successful Broadway singer whose freeloading family–dad (Guy Kibbee), mom (Alice Brady), and kid sister (Lucille Ball) –has taken away both her happiness as well as her money. Into the repressed star’s life enters the raffish young millionaire Daniel Brewster (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), who rescues her from autograph seekers but his good intentions of whisking her away to his car is misunderstood and results in his arrest. But things get straightened out and Brewster teaches her how to act silly and laugh again by getting her into the joys of loving (such as dining out with him in a cosy inexpensive neighborhood cafe, going with him to a public skating rink, and drinking with him in a German beer hall). It’s worth mentioning that this Brewster guy who is preaching for her to quit work and abandon her greedy family, is a wealthy Boston shipowner who runs a small cargo business and dwells in a South Sea island called Paradise. How easy it is to drop out when you have wealth seems never to have occurred to the filmmaker.

Dunne stiffly sings several Jerome Kern numbers, such as “You Couldn’t Have Been Cuter,” “Just Let Me Look at You,” “What’s Good About Goodnight” and “A Heavenly Party.”

Up-and-comer Lucille Ball plays Dunne’s Broadway under-study and grasping sister. But the film’s only treat comes from its talented supporting cast of Billy Gilbert playing a cafe owner, Jean Dixon playing the maid and Franklin Pangborn the orchestra leader. The screenplay was so lame that even these notable talents had difficulty getting laughs.

Because of its over a million dollar budget, the film never made back its money in the box office.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”