Thursday, October 15, 2020

120 "SCREWBALL" YEARS OF JEAN ARTHUR BLOGATHON: If You Could Only Cook, 1935


Virginia of The Wonderful World of Cinema is hosting the 120 Screwball Years of Jean Arthur Blogathon. The October 15 - 17 tribute to the beloved actress begins HERE.


James Buchanan: "Now if you could only cook."
Joan Hawthorne: "Oh, I can cook. I'm a marvelous cook. ... Can you butle?"

Mike Rossini played by Leo Carrillo needs a cook, an exceptional cook. Mike made his money as a bootlegger when prohibition was the law. His current business is no less shady but that shouldn't bother any new employees. An exceptional cook who comes with a butler/chauffeur can find themselves with quarters over the garage and $175 dollars a month, and that, to quote Joan is "real money." 

Joan Hawthorne played by Jean Arthur could use some real money. On her own in New York City, Joan is out of work and has come to a parting of the ways with her landlady. She discusses these matters with James Buchanan as they sit on a park bench. Joan assumes as anyone would, that a fellow sitting on a park bench in the middle of the afternoon is a fellow seeker of employment.
 
Herbert Marshall, Jean Arthur

James Buchanan played by Herbert Marshall is not exactly on the down and out. He is the chief engineer and CEO of a successful car manufacturing concern. He has walked away from his business on this day because his Board of Directors refuses to go along with his new designs, choosing to play it conservative during the Depression. James is fed up. James is also fed up with his upcoming nuptials. His bride-to-be Evelyn played by Frieda Inescourt is only marrying him for his money and the convenient fact that he is too busy to be involved in her life. James wants the warmth and excitement he expected would come with romance. Silly boy!

James wants to keep the intriguing young woman on the park bench in his life so he tells her his name is Jim Burns and joins her in pursuit of positions with the wealthy Mr. Rossini. Rossini's right-hand man Flash played by Lionel Stander doesn't get all the hype about an "exceptional cook" but he comes in handy for muscle work and moving the plot along with his snooping.

Joan and Jim grow closer during their time as cook and butler, and a "married" couple, but have trouble admitting their feelings. After all, Jim unknown to Joan, still has to deal with a company and a fiancee. This leads to comic complications between the potential lovebirds. When people don't have all the facts - well, anything can happen.


Jean Arthur, Leo Carrillo
 
Joan proves to be too much of an exceptional cook. Add that skill to her general attractiveness and Joan finds herself in the middle of a love triangle as Mike Rossini tries to steal the girl of his dreams away from her "husband." How the police (!) and a gang of armed thugs (!) get involved in all of this, I will leave you to discover for yourselves. The hubby and I came across this movie one Saturday afternoon with no prior knowledge of it and we were immediately and permanently charmed.

The story for If You Could Only Cook is from the prolific comedic mind of F. Hugh Herbert (Corliss Archer, The Moon is Blue) with the screenplay by Gertrude Purcell (Destry Rides Again, One Night in the Tropics) and Howard J. Green (Blessed Event, Star of Midnight).


Herbert Marshall, director William Seiter, Jean Arthur
Everyone seems to be in on a different joke in this gag photo.

William Seiter had great skill with comedy and over the years many of his films have become personal favourites: Skinner's Dress Suit, Why Be Good?, Diplomaniacs, Sons of the Desert, The Richest Girl in the World, Roberta, The Moon's Our Home, It's a Date, You Were Never Lovelier and others. Jean and Seiter would work again in 1943 for A Lady Takes a Chance

Our Columbia release of 1935 presents three accomplished actors who appear to be having great fun with their characters. Leo Carrillo is especially delightful as a capricious crook confusing his heart with his stomach, although Jean Arthur does have more than her culinary skills to recommend her. Herbert Marshall brings his sophistication and subtle humour and sincerity to create a relatable character.

Jean Arthur had been in films since 1923, bouncing among the studios when Columbia finally noticed her comedic potential in an earlier 1935 release, John Ford's The Whole Town's Talking. While dramas took up most of her output that year, light bulbs finally went on over the heads of the executives, and she shines in If Only You Could Cook. Jean Arthur's tough but sweet personality took flight in this captivating screwball comedy. Audiences of the time must have been pleased with this presentation of the actress as star comedy material. The following year, Jean played Babe Bennett in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town for Frank Capra, and cinema immortality was hers.












24 comments:

  1. What does Arthur cook? Or does it not matter?

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    1. She passed the audition by wafting garlic over a sauce instead of dunking it into the mixture. This impressed Mike immensely. He had been waiting for just such a cook all his life (apparently). Yeah. Lionel Stander wasn't impressed. Anyway, after that she could do no wrong.

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  2. This is one of the films I discussed in my thesis on screwball comedy and I loved reading about it from a non-academic performance this time. It's such a fun picture with a lot of potential and that definitely deserves more recognition. I hope that you wonderful review will make people want to see it! Thank you so much for your contribution to my blogathon! :)

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    1. My pleasure. Thank you for the kind words and for hosting this tribute to Jean Arthur.

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  3. I thought you might want to know that Friday is GLOBAL CAT DAY. A good day to spoil your cat-even more than usual. I know you have one cat named BEATRICE. I remember that you had two cats named BUDDY and SALLY. I think they were your first cats. Does Garry like cats a lot? What about Janet and Gavin? I've read that sometimes kids with special needs really do good with some cats and dogs. Also some special-needs people(even adults) do good with some programs involving horses.

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    1. Thank you for the heads-up. As cat owners know Every Day Is Cat Day!

      Beatrice, who came from a rescue group is now 19 and Rosie, who came from a workmate of Garry's is 18. They are very affectionate (Rosie more than Bea) and absolutely adore Janet. Gavin always includes them as part of the family. He writes out "Mommy, Daddy, Janet, Gavin, Beatrice Cat and Rosemary Cat. He likes dogs from a distance. I think they intimidate him.

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  4. This seemss like a very cute and endearing film. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on it, Paddy. :-)
    I have not seen Herbert in many comedic roles and this is something that definitely needs to change for me! Once again Jean is in an impossible, yet exciting, love triangle that certainly brings its dose of excitement!

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  5. You're right, there is something permanently charming about this film. And it's about time that Leo Carillo got his due as one of golden-age Hollywood's best comic-character actors. He's adorable in another film he made with Jean Arthur, History Is Made At Night, in which Arthur gets to demonstrate both her comedic and dramatic skills in one film. Thanks!

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  6. JEAN ARTHUR and JOAN CAULFIELD were ex-wives of producer FRANK ROSS. Joan died on Jun. 18, 1991 and Jean died on Jun. 19, 1991. (Ross had died the previous year.) The only western that I saw Jean in was SHANE with ALAN LADD. Have you seen Jean Arthur in very many westerns? Have you seen Joan Caulfield in any westerns?

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    1. I enjoyed Jean's westerns Arizona with young William Holden, and the DeMille epic The Plainsman along with the classic Shane.

      Joan made a few westerns but the only one I have seen so far is Cattle King opposite Robert Taylor.

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  7. Speaking of JOAN CAULFIELD, her last acting role was on an episode of MURDER, SHE WROTE. TROUBLE IN EDEN aired in Nov. 1987. ANGELA LANSBURY, the star of M.S.W., is 95 today! I really like Angela in THE LONG HOT SUMMER and BLUE HAWAII. I remember that you saw her in a play(not a long time ago.) Do you have any albums from MAME, etc.? P.S. Angela was delightful as MRS. POTTS in the animated DISNEY movie BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Didn't she sing two songs in that movie?

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    1. Hubby and I are both theatre nerds so we have original cast albums of Mame, and our daughter has recently become a fan of Sweeney Todd.

      There is a part of Angela Lansbury's career for every type of fan, the Disney fan, the theatre buff, the classic movie fan, the classic television fan. She's our gal!

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  8. I mentioned back in August that RHONDA FLEMING turned 97. Sadly MISS FLEMING died on Oct. 14(Wed.) She was born MARILYN LOUIS. Rhonda received a well-deserved GOLDEN BOOT AWARD in 1987. She was in good company-two of the others receiving the award that year were GLENN FORD and JOEL MCCRAE.

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    1. Rhonda Fleming is a favourite of mine. She was in every type of movie and was a lovely singer.

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  9. MARSHA HUNT is 103 today! She did an ep of MY THREE SONS as KATIE'S visiting aunt. I remember that she was in one of your favorite episodes of MURDER, SHE WROTE.

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    1. I don't recall if I shared my piece on Marsha Hunt with you, but you might enjoy it.

      https://www.caftanwoman.com/2009/03/crazy-about-marsha-hunt.html

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  10. I watched this for the first time a couple of months ago. Like you, I didn't know what to expect, but – also like you – I was immediately charmed, as in: Where has this movie been all my life?

    P.S. Your review was equally as wonderful.

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    1. Thanks so much. I am sure more fans will come its way after reading our reaction to the movie.

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  11. This movie is so cute and underrated. When I first saw it, I expected Jean Arthur to be fabulous (as she always was), but the real surprise was Herbert Marshall. Who knew he could be such a good romantic comedy leading man?

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    1. Charming and sweet, who could ask for anything more?

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  12. HERBERT MARSHALL was in MIDNIGHT LACE(60) which starred DORIS DAY. Doris was in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH(56). EDNA BEST was in the original THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH(34). At the time Edna was the wife of...Herbert Marshall.

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    1. I don't think I was aware of the Marshall and Best marriage. I shall have to seek out their film work to see them together.

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  13. LEO CARRILLO was a cousin of WILLIAM GAXTON. I know William from his last movie DIAMOND HORSESHOE starring BETTY GRABLE. He played the dad to DICK HAYMES. I saw the movie on Jun. 15, 1987 on a Monday. I remember this because AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS was added to our cable that day. This was the first movie I watched from AMC. It was on at 8 PM. Little did I know that I would end up watching Betty star in 18 movies over a period of 18 months! Before AMC I had only seen two movies with Betty. They were HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE and HOW TO BE VERY,VERY POPULAR.

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    1. I never saw the classic AMC but it must have been wonderful to see all those movies. I'm particularly fond of Twentieth Century Fox movies.

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120 "SCREWBALL" YEARS OF JEAN ARTHUR BLOGATHON: If You Could Only Cook, 1935

Virginia of The Wonderful World of Cinema is hosting the 120 Screwball Years of Jean Arthur Blogathon . The October 15 - 17 tribute to t...