(director: Jack Conway; screenwriters: based on a story by David Hertz & William Ludwig/David Hertz/Charles Lederer/William Ludwig; cinematographer: Ray June; editor: Ben Lewis; music: David Snell; cast: William Powell (Stephen Ireland), Myrna Loy (Susan Ireland), Gail Patrick (Isobel Kimble Grayson), Jack Carson (Ward Willoughby), Florence Bates (Mrs. Cooper, mother-in-law), Sidney Blackmer (Lawyer George Renny), Sig Rumann (Doctor Wuthering), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Elevator Boy), Donald MacBride (“Pinky” Grayson); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro S. Berman; MGM; 1941)
“Plays as one big mother-in-law joke.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A frothy screwball comedy that once again teams Myrna Loy with William Powell. The farce centers around a misunderstanding during a fourth anniversary celebration between a happily married couple, Stephen and Susan Ireland (William Powell and Myrna Loy), as Stephen’s mother-in-law Mrs. Cooper (Florence Bates) pays a surprise visit and overstays her visit when she sprains an ankle. When a power outage causes an elevator to get stuck with Stephen and his ex-lover Isobel Grayson (Gail Patrick), who recently moved into the building with new artist hubby Pinky (Donald MacBride), the mother-in-law draws the wrong conclusion when it’s discovered Stephen spent time in the ex flame’s apartment when her hubby was gone. Threatened with a divorce by the jealous Susan, Stephen under advisement from his lawyer George Renny (Sidney Blackmer) pretends to have gone buggy to delay the filing for the divorce and give him time to woo wifey back (can’t get a divorce for at least five years under such circumstances), but Susan foils his plan and has him committed to an insane asylum. Stephen returns home, but the asylum declares him a homicidal maniac and has the police search his building. To avoid detection Stephen dresses in drag masquerading as his sister, as he goes all out to show Susan that she’s the only one he loves.
So-so director Jack Conway (“Boom Town”/”Saratoga”) puts in one of his better efforts thanks in part to a great cast and a zany script. Bates is the best intrusive, disapproving mother-in-law ever in pics, Patrick revisits her familiar the ‘other woman’ role with her usual skill and a young Jack Carson is a scream running around the building half-naked as an archery champion oaf in pursuit of Susan through an initial mistake made by Susan to make her hubby jealous. It’s authored by Charles Lederer from a story by David Hertz and William Ludwig.
The film plays as one big mother-in-law joke. More slapstick than sophisticated, this marital comedy uses its Marx Brothers absurd story line to great effect. Highly enjoyable, though not one of the duo’s better comedy romps–it loses too much pep as it overstretches its one big joke.
REVIEWED ON 3/23/2006 GRADE: B-