TURNABOUT(director: Hal Roach; screenwriters: Berne Giler/Rian James/John McClain/Mickell Novack/from the novel by Thorne Smith; cinematographer: Norbert Brodine; editor: Bert Jordan; music: Arthur Morton; cast: Adolphe Menjou (Phil Manning), Carole Landis (Sally Willows), John Hubbard (Tim Willows), William Gargan (Joel Clare), Verree Teasdale (Laura Bannister), Mary Astor (Marion Manning), Franklin Pangborn (Mr. Pingboom), Marjorie Main (Nora), Donald Meek (Henry), Berton Churchill (Julian Marlowe), Dixie Gale (Margaret Roach), George Renavent (Mr. Ram), Yolande Moliot (Marie); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal Roach; United Artists; 1940)
“A daring for its time but now dated screwball comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A daring for its time but now dated screwball comedy directed by Hal Roach (“At Work”/”The Housekeeper’s Daughter”/”Haunted Spooks”); it’s based on Thorne Smith’s (also wrote Topper-1932) fantasy novel about sexual role reversal. Believe it or not, this topic bothered the censors. I must say I didn’t find the gimmicky premise such a hot idea and found the funny stuff confined only to the gifted supporting actors, with a Groucho-like Majorie Main stealing the show with a barrage of acerbic one-liners and a pansy hosiery merchant character played by Franklin Pangborn and a confused butler played by Donald Meek providing some welcome comic relief.
The aggressive and athletic Tim Willows (John Hubbard) is a successful partner in the advertising agency of Manning, Willows and Claire. His good looking but lazy and spoiled wife Sally (Carole Landis) are always bickering. In their bedroom, the couple keep a bronze bust of an Indian idol named Mr. Ram, given to them by a distant relative. After a hectic business day for Tim and a day of loafing for Sally, they quarrel in front of the statue and both express a desire to change places. Mr. Ram suddenly speaks and grants them their wish. The next morning, about half way through the pic, Tim and Sally awake to find their personalities, voices and mannerisms magically exchanged in the other’s body. The feminine voiced and swishy mannered Sally goes to work as an advertising executive and startles everyone, while the husky-voiced Tim tries to bear up to being a housewife but only gets on the helps’ nerves. At the agency, the firm’s most important account, pineapple king Julian Marlowe, cancels when Sally upsets him, while the home-bound Tim is going stir crazy with nothing to do but climb a flag pole and chat with her socialite girlfriend layabouts. That evening, the couple ask Mr. Ram to restore them to their original sexes and personalities. The next day the couple, by using Sally’s pregnancy as an excuse, woo back their alienated friends, the prime advertising client they insulted and clear the air with Tim’s worried partners–the dipsomaniac Manning (Adolphe Menjou) and the dimwitted Claire (William Gargan). Things seem back to normal until Mr. Ram informs them that it’s Tim who is pregnant. This male pregnancy bit bothered Joe Breen at the censors board so much, that he gave the film an objectionable rating, while the Legion of Decency chimed in with their disapproval.
REVIEWED ON 9/29/2007 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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