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.
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.