Appellate Judge James A. Stewart gives medical texts as wedding presents, and not just to doctors.
Our review of A Night to Remember (1958) Criterion Collection, published April 3rd, 2012, is also available.
"Look, lady, we're all losing a lot of sleep. When, where, why, how, and who did you marry?"
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:
• Theodora Goes Wild
• Together Again<
• The Doctor Takes A Wife
• A Night to Remember
• A Color Rhapsody Cartoon: Mad Hatter
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.
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.
Although no longer a guilty pleasure, these screwball comedies are still a
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