Showing posts with label Patric Knowles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Patric Knowles. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It's Love I'm After (1937)

"I can't understand why a man I'm so crazy about takes such a fiendish delight in tormenting me." - Bette Davis as Joyce Arden

They hate each other. They love each other. Stage actors Joyce Arden (Bette Davis) and Basil Underwood (Leslie Howard) have the most tempestuous romance. Under the lights and in front of an eager audience they deliver stunning performances, but backstage things can get ugly. After one rousing rendition of Romeo and Juliet, Basil is cornered by an infatuated fan. What he doesn't realize is this is no ordinary fan. She's wealthy socialite Marcia West (Olivia de Havilland). She truly believes she's in love with Basil, much to the dismay of her fiancee Henry Grant Jr. (Patric Knowles).

"Love for breakfast. Love for lunch. Love for dinner."

When Henry confronts Basil about this dilemma, Basil offers to help. Especially to repay the debt Henry's father paid him when the stock market crashed back in 1929. As Basil and his butler and partner-in-crime Digges (Eric Blore) act out one of Basil's original plays, Henry has an idea. Basil should visit Marcia's family and cause such a ruckus that she'll fall out of love with him. It'll be exactly like a performance in a play! But there are two major obstacles awaiting Basil. He doesn't realize that the woman he's fooling with dramatics is the same fan who visited him in his dressing room on New Year's Eve. Also Basil promised Joyce that they'd get married on New Year's Day and she's about to throw his plans for a loop. Can Basil save Henry and Marcia's relationship and his own or will it all end in tragedy?

"From now on I doff the mantle of a Romeo and assume the role of a cad." - Leslie Howard as Basil Underwood

Based on the original story by Maurice Hanline called Gentlemen After Midnight, It's Love I'm After (1937) was directed by Archie Mayo for Warner Bros. The project was born out of Leslie Howard's request for a comedic vehicle. He needed a break after a succession of dramatic roles, one of them which happened to be Romeo in MGM's Romeo and Juliet (1936). Olivia de Havilland, a fairly new contract player for Warner Bros. had recently appeared in Mayo's Call It a Day (1937). Two years later de Havilland and Howard appeared in Gone With the Wind (1939) together, clinching their status as Hollywood legends. De Havilland was added to the cast pretty early on and in fact they started shooting scenes with her, Knowles, Howard and Blore even before a leading lady was secured.

Getting a leading lady for the film was easier said than done. Leslie Howard initially wanted Ina Clare or Gertrude Lawrence, two stage veterans, to appear opposite him. In the end, neither had the screen presence to be viable options. Howard had worked with Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1934) and the Archie Mayo directed movie The Petrified Forest (1936). The two didn't get along and Howard was hesitant about working with her again. But if they wanted an actress who sparkled on screen they could do no wrong with Davis. When Davis was cast, the production was already well on its way. In fact, a July 1937 issue of Screenland shows behind-the-scenes pictures of the making of the film but does not mention Bette Davis whatsoever. Her character appears more so at the beginning and end of the film so plenty of scenes could have been shot without her. Before It's Love I'm After, Davis was hospitalized for exhaustion. She took a tumble into the orchestra pit during the filming of the Romeo & Juliet scenes and suffered a minor injury.

When I came across this movie, I was immediately drawn by the star power. Davis, Howard AND de Havilland? Of course I had to watch this! All three play to their strengths. Davis as the tempestuous actress who runs hot and cold, Howard as an actor's actor and de Havilland as a starry-eyed youth with a tender heart; not a stretch for any of them by any means. And one of my favorite child actors, Bonita Granville, plays to her strengths as the bratty spoiled teenager.

But it's not Davis, nor Howard, nor de Havilland, nor Knowles nor even boisterous little Granville who steals the show. It's character actor Eric Blore. If you enjoy Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, Blore is a familiar face. He often played waiters and butlers and in It's Love I'm After he plays Digges, Howard's underpaid but devoted assistant. The script really gave Blore many moments to shine. He's got a lot of terrific scenes, delivers some great lines and serves as both straight man and comic throughout the story. He's the most sensible character but he's also caught up in the magic of the theater. Blore's Digges anchors the movie and I'd go so far as to say he's the #1 reason you should watch it.

It's Love I'm After (1937) is a zany film with lots of great witty one-liners and insults. Come for Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland and stay for Eric Blore.

It's Love I'm After (1937) is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection. When you use my buy link you help support this site. Thanks!

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I purchased It's Love I'm After (1937) from the WB Shop.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Beauty for the Asking (1939)

Patric Knowles, Lucille Ball and Donald Woods in Beauty for the Asking (1939)

Beautician Jean Russell (Lucille Ball) has just mastered her formula for astringent cold cream. The business and financial prospects are enough that she can finally marry her live-in beau Denny (Patric Knowles). However, it turns out Denny has his higher aims and plans to marry wealthy yet homely socialite Flora Barton (Frieda Inescort). Settling into life without Denny, Jean and her straight-talking roommate Gwen (Inez Courtney) set out to make Jean's cold cream a success. Jean barges into the office of advertising executive Jeffrey Martin (Donald Woods) determined to get his help with her product. The cold cream evolves into a whole line of beauty products and salons. When Jean and Jeffrey get backing from Denny's new bride Flora, things get awful complicated especially when Denny and Jeffrey vie for Jean's romantic attentions.

RKO's Beauty for Asking (1939) was directed by Glenn Tryon who most will recognize as the male lead in two Pal Fejos films Lonesome (1928) and Broadway (1929). The story was based on an original idea by women screenwriters Grace Norton and Adele Buffington and would then be fleshed out by Edmund L. Hartmann, Doris Anderson and Paul Jarrico.

Adele Buffington, who would later write under the names Jesse Bowers and Colt Remington, championed original stories for film instead of adaptations of plays and novels which were the norm in Hollywood. She got her start as a teenager working at as a ticket cashier at a cinema. This job allowed her to watch as many silent movies as she wanted. At the tender age of 19 she wrote her first screenplay and her journey to Hollywood began. In 1924 she wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times called Beauty and Brains Go Together, in which she fought against the stereotype that intellectuals were ugly and beautiful women were dumb.

This idea, perhaps progressive for the time, made its way into Beauty for the Asking where socialites and business women alike are known for their smarts as well as their looks. In fact the weakest character, Flora Barton-Williams, blossoms when she achieves not only self-confidence and glamour but also grows wise to the motives of her husband. Flora gets help from Jean who is not just her romantic rival but also a role model. Jean who is still smarting from Denny's betrayal is also a diligent business woman who makes a career for herself with her own invention. She didn't intend to give up her aspirations even when marriage with Denny seemed likely. She tells him:

"Why should a woman stop using her brains just because she's caught her man?" - Jean Russell

The screenwriting team was also inspired by Helena Rubinstein, the cosmetics entrepreneur who became rich off of her business. She believed in packaging, up-pricing, endorsements and the perceived power of science.  According to an article on, screenwriter Paul Jarrico did quite a bit of research hoping to reveal the shady tricks the beauty industry employs to fool customers. A little of this remains in the movie however the focus of the story is more about the main characters relationships with each other than the beauty industry that sustains them.

Beauty for the Asking is a darling little movie. Pair this in a double bill with The Women (1939) and it would serve as a nice little appetizer for that main course. As many classic movie lovers know, 1939 was a great year for the film industry. This doesn't only include the big pictures but for B-movies too.

Beauty for the Asking and The Women (1939)
Beauty for the Asking is available on DVD-MOD from Warner Archive.You can purchase the DVD from the WB Shop. Use my buy links to shop and you will help support this site. Thanks!

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me a copy of Beauty for the Asking (1939) to review!

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