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Case Number 16962

Buy Icons Of Screwball Comedy: Volume Two at Amazon

Icons Of Screwball Comedy: Volume Two

Theodora Goes Wild
1936 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
The Doctor Takes A Wife
1942 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
A Night To Remember
1943 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Together Again
1944 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Sony
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // August 5th, 2009

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart gives medical texts as wedding presents, and not just to doctors.

Editor's Note

Our review of A Night to Remember (1958) Criterion Collection, published April 3rd, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

"Look, lady, we're all losing a lot of sleep. When, where, why, how, and who did you marry?"

Opening Statement

Silly as it sounds, that question, from The Doctor Takes A Wife, is a good one in the world of screwball comedy, a genre full of unlikely farcical situations designed to get a wicked joke or two past the censors. Icons of Screwball Comedy: Volume Two puts the spotlight on two screwball comedy actresses, Irene Dunne and Loretta Young.

Facts of the Case

Icons of Screwball Comedy: Volume Two features four movies on two discs, Disc One devoted to Irene Dunne and Disc Two devoted to Loretta Young:

Disc One

• Theodora Goes Wild
"I thought it was just romantic. I must have been out of my mind."
"What? To write a book that's sweeping the country?"
"But not a clean sweep!"
Sweet small-town girl Theodora (Irene Dunne, Life With Father) is a church organist raised by two aunts. She's also the author of a steamy novel that her local literary society wants to see banned. She generates a little steam with Michael (Melvyn Douglas, Ninotchka), the artist who did the cover for her book, when he comes to sleepy Lynnfield posing as a gardener, but things could get a little hot for them both when he slips out of town.

• Together Again<
"Extry! Extry! Jonathan Crandall got his block knocked off!"
Sweet small-town widow Anne (Irene Dunne) is Brookhaven's mayor, having taken over her late husband's position. When her husband's statue is beheaded by a storm, she heads to New York to interview a sculptor (Charles Boyer, Gaslight), who falls for her immediately. Her father-in-law thinks the beheading was a nudge from beyond the grave to give Anne a second chance at romance, but Anne's not so sure.

Disc Two

• The Doctor Takes A Wife
"Without a husband, this book never would have been written."
"Without a wife, I never would have been a professor."
June Cameron (Loretta Young, The Stranger), author of Spinsters Aren't Spinach, makes the mistake of hitching a ride with Dr. Timothy Sterling (Ray Milland, Dial M For Murder) in a car festooned with a "Just Married" sign. When reporters assume she's married, it's the end of her book about the joys of the single life, but the start of a new career as the voice of the married woman. When Sterling finds marriage to be a career boost, he's ready to go along with the charade. Trouble is, Sterling's fiancee isn't so thrilled with his bogus marriage.

• A Night to Remember
"I'm going with you. If you're going to be murdered, I'm going to be murdered, too!"
Jeff Troy (Brian Aherne, 1953's Titanic) and his wife Nancy (Loretta Young) move into a Greenwich Village basement apartment while Jeff writes a mystery novel set in New York. When a body turns up in the courtyard, Jeff is cast in the role of suspect by the police but decides he'd rather play detective.

• A Color Rhapsody Cartoon: Mad Hatter
Working woman Maisie is followed as she rushes to get ready for work, loafs on the job, and buys a custom-made hat after work. The Rube Goldberg-like mechanical chaos at the beginning and end is funny, but the cartoon's attitude toward working women isn't.

The Evidence

If you're a fan of screwball comedy, Theodora Goes Wild is a movie you've just got to see. The best part is Irene Dunne's way of injecting a wee hint of wicked desire into her innocent character, the twinkle in her eye hinting at inner tension. Sophisticated artist Michael, played by Melvyn Douglas, tries to prod her into opening up, but it's only when he slips out of Lynnfield that Theodora finally goes wild, turning the tables on him. Suddenly, the shy authoress is holding court in press conferences and playing the part of the urban sophisticate with zest—in Michael's New York apartment. Turns out he's separated from his wife, and Theodora wants to force a divorce. Here, the inflection in Dunne's voice changes and she becomes that wicked authoress. The comedy's building to a crescendo in which she returns to Lynnfield and wins over Michael. There's a subplot about a friend who's secretly married and pregnant, creating a misunderstanding that adds to speculation about how wild Theodora went. For 1936, Theodora really goes wild with surprising joy.

Together Again from 1944 is a milder version of the same, with Charles Boyer taking over as the artist who comes to town to shake up a small-town woman's life. Dunne's reactions to a whistle she doesn't want to acknowledge appreciating, Boyer's too-interested questioning, or a burlesque show are still priceless. Her chemistry with Boyer is gentle and romantic rather than naughty, but the pair never gets too sweet. Both Dunne movies have an added bonus in her beautiful singing voice.

Loretta Young doesn't seem to enjoy the screwball situation of The Doctor Takes A Wife so much, but she and Ray Milland are adept at physical comedy. Priceless scenes include a chaotic dinner party in which Milland's Dr. Timothy Sterling keeps sneaking out to visit his fiancee Marilyn and Marilyn's snide assessment of Young's Joan as Joan listens, hidden under a blanket in Timothy's car and giving the doctor gentle nudges to let him know she doesn't like it. Milland plays the uber-nerd, complete with glasses, well, making jokes about colleagues who give the couple copies of medical texts for wedding presents pay off. The movie ends sweetly, but viewers might detect a certain cynicism toward marriage in the dialogue and situations.

A Night to Remember doesn't flop like the Titanic, but the comic murder mystery is slight, easily the least of the set. As the farcical detecting couple, Young plays scared, while Brian Aherne comes across as too unaware to be scared. I enjoyed a rather silly twist on The Hound of the Baskervilles, but it's hokey and predictable.

I noticed a few scratches and flecks on Together Again and The Doctor Takes a Wife, but Sony generally handled these movies well.

Trailers are included for all films except Together Again. Beware of A Night to Remember's trailer, which says too much about the plot.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Screwball comedies are the product of an era when sex was a taboo topic in the movies. They're risque for their time, but modern viewers could find them tame and silly. Give them a chance, though.

Closing Statement

If you're interested at all in screwball comedies, buy this set. Theodora Goes Wild would be worth the purchase alone, and even the least of the set, A Night to Remember, is amusing. After reviewing the first two volumes, I found this to be the better of the two sets, but both bring good movies that time has largely forgotten to a modern audience.

The Verdict

Although no longer a guilty pleasure, these screwball comedies are still a pleasure.

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Scales of Justice, Theodora Goes Wild

Video: 90
Audio: 88
Extras: 40
Acting: 95
Story: 88
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Theodora Goes Wild

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1936
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Theodora Goes Wild

• Trailer

Scales of Justice, The Doctor Takes A Wife

Video: 80
Audio: 86
Extras: 60
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, The Doctor Takes A Wife

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1942
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Doctor Takes A Wife

• Trailer
• Cartoon

Scales of Justice, A Night To Remember

Video: 86
Audio: 86
Extras: 20
Acting: 85
Story: 78
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, A Night To Remember

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, A Night To Remember

• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Together Again

Video: 80
Audio: 86
Extras: 0
Acting: 90
Story: 84
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile, Together Again

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1944
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Together Again

• None

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