Piccadilly Jim (1936)


(director: Robert Z. Leonard; screenwriter: from the book Piccadilly Jim by P. G. Wodehouse/Charles Brackett; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: William S. Gray; music: William Axt; cast: Robert Montgomery (James ‘Jim’ Crocker, Jr., aka Jim Bayliss), Eric Blore (Bayliss, Jim’s Butler), Frank Morgan (James Crocker, Sr., aka Count Olav Osric), Billie Burke (Eugenia Willis, Nesta’s Sister), Madge Evans (Ann Chester), Cora Witherspoon (Nesta Pett, Ann’s Aunt), Robert Benchely (Bill Macon), Ralph Forbes (Lord Frederick ‘Freddie’ Priory); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robert Z. Leonard/Harry Rapf; MGM; 1936-UK)

“This agreeable but inane farce can easily be forgotten.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Piccadilly Jim is an amiable comedy with an ample supply of snappy dialogue and British droll wit. It is based on the book by humorist P. G. Wodehouse and directed by Robert Z. Leonard and written by Charles Brackett. James Crocker, Sr., (Frank Morgan) and James ‘Jim’ Crocker, Jr., (Robert Montgomery) are father and son, affluent but working members of the elite, who accidentally find themselves wooing two women in the same wealthy family. The stage actor father is seeking the affection of Eugenia Willis (Billie Burke), but her sister Nesta (Cora Witherspoon) snootily detests actors and he’s rejected by the obedient socialite. At a club party the cartoonist son is introduced to Ann Chester (Madge Evans) by his friend Macon, but she rejects him for Lord Frederick Priory (Ralph Forbes). He does not realize she’s a niece of Eugenia, the woman who rejected his father, and she doesn’t realize that he’s a newspaper cartoonist working under the name of Piccadilly Jim. As a means of revenge, he unmercifully caricatures the family in his cartoons and the family becomes the laughing stock of London.

From there the farce builds into a series of lighthearted comedy mix-ups, where the son pretends his butler Bayliss (Eric Blore) is Piccadilly Jim and that he will get him to stop the cartoons. Still pretending, he tries to delay his love interest Ann from catching a boat to America with Lord Frederick. Meanwhile dad disguises himself as Count Olav Osric to board the boat and woo Eugenia in earnest.

When everything gets straightened out and the good guys prevail, this agreeable but inane farce can easily be forgotten with a pleasant smile lingering on one’s kisser. The main argument against it is that it stayed around for far too long with a padded story.