The title of this film, "Love on the Run," nails the plot perfectly. This is a hilarious movie from start to finish. It has a wonderfully crazy script. The silliness, mix of subplots and twists, and wacky situations are what make it so funny. The dialog and humorous lines fit those situations to a T. Much of the humor comes in the visuals with the expressions and reactions to dialog as well as the details of each situation.
Joan Crawford was at the top of the MGM list of contract players in 1936 and she gets top billing here over Clark Garble, who had won a best actor Oscar two years earlier for "It Happened One Night." But that was under a loaned out deal with Columbia Pictures. Franchot Tone co-stars with third billing. Gable and Tone were leading male stars for MGM, and Tone was married to Crawford at the time. What a show the three of them put on in this very funny and entertaining film. It's borderline but close enough to be labeled screwball comedy.
Crawford plays rich American heiress Sally Parker. Gable and Tone are Michael Anthony and Barnabus Pells. They are friends and reporters – called foreign correspondents in those days. They live together in Paris and work for rival American newspapers. Fiction comedies rarely used real newspaper names. Mike works for the New York Chronicle and Barney writes for the New York Dispatch. They share stories to report back home, with each one trying to cover the most interesting story of the day. This day, Mike goes to cover a socialite wedding and he's dressed in a formal tux with tails and top hat.
The film has a tremendous supporting cast. Reginald Owen is superb as Baron Otto and Mona Barrie is very good as Baroness Hilda. It's never clear and one wonders if they are supposed to be German or Russian. I suspect it is a poke at Nazi Germany and also at the Soviet Union. The Soviets then would have had no one of royalty, nor would they have the technology to be building a plane to fly into the stratosphere. The accents seemed to be more German, and Germany definitely had science and technology advances by the mid-1930s. Yet, when she's being tied up by one of the Baron's thugs, Sally says she'll pursue him across the planet, even to Vladivostok.
Donald Meek is the caretaker of the Fontainebleau Palace, which had been home to the kings and queens of France since it was built in the 16th century. He and his invisible dog, Bismarck, steal the scenes they are in with Gable and Crawford. William Demarest, Charles Judels and Ivan Lebedeff are very good in their roles.
The film has non-stop action. The script has some clever dialog and witty exchanges. But the greatest laughs come from the situations that the leads find themselves in, and the dupes that Mike plays on Barney. I'm guessing they had to shoot a number of takes for some scenes. The cast – Tone especially, seemed to be having so much fun that it's hard to imagine him not cracking up with laughter in some scenes.
Mike and Barney are in a battle of one-upmanship for the top story of the day, whatever it may be. And this film has as many hi-jinks as any other I can recall. They include a broken high society wedding, a runaway bride, espionage, kidnapping, pioneering aviation, a train trip, a man thrown from a train, stolen airplane and plane crash, a ride on a horse-drawn farm cart with pigs and cabbage, theft of a dry cleaning truck, breaking into a French national monument, sleeping in a museum overnight, and more.
The film has more than a little lampooning in places, and It's a hilarious romp throughout. This film has a couple of scenes that are among the funniest of all time. My favorite is at the very end. Barney is lying on the floor tied to a chair, with the phone off the receiver and he's talking to the cable office. Mike and Sally are untying him. He spells the names for the joint byline.
Barney, ""M for maniac." Sally, "I for I love you, darling." Barney, "I for I love you darling. C for crackpot." Mike, "H for how soon are we going to get married?" Barney, "H for how soon are we going to get mar
No, I'm not drunk." Sally, "A for any time you say." Barney, "A for any time you say. Aw, shut up!" Anyone with a sense of humor who enjoys clean-cut comedy should get a bang out of this film. It's a must for any serious comedy film library.
Here are a few funny lines from the film. Barney, "You could've been sitting in the theater the night Lincoln was shot and you wouldn't have covered me." Mike, "I'd have told you, I swear." Barney, "Oh, yeah, you'd have told me Lincoln shot Booth."
Igor, "I'm not at disadvantage? Have I met the gentleman?" Sally, "You scurrilous little scavenger. Don't be silly. Where would you ever meet a gentleman?"
Sally, "Trains run to Paris, you know? Choo, choo, choo." Mike, "I don't know why I keep explaining things to you, but railroad stations have a habit of being watched."
Sally, "You sheer, unadulterated worm." Mike, "Go ahead, I deserve it."
Barney, "Baby, you call the shots and I'll pull the trigger."
Sally, "Now stop it, Barney. Poor Michael." Barney, "Woman, thy name is screwball."
Mike, "Well, you don't think I enjoy playing cops and robbers all over Europe with a
" Sally, "But you can't leave me here with all these cabbages."