4 February 2009 | Lejink
Short and sweet, bright and breezy, but not without pith, this early Preston Sturges feature helped further establish his "wonder-kid" reputation in the early 40's before his great classics "Sullivan's Travels", "The Lady Eve" and my favourite "Hail The Conquering Hero".
The simple premise of a hoax win in a national coffee-slogan competition for ordinary average nice-guy Powell is the springboard for a light morality tale along the lines of "he who does good has good things happen to them" - although not without the usual series of ups and downs, just as you'd expect.
Of course nobody here is really bad, even the duped killjoy Mr, no make that Dr Maxford of the sponsoring coffee company or Mr Shindler of the too-trusting department store from whom Powell buys gifts for the whole neighbourhood on the strength of the phony winning telegram placed on his desk by his prankster work colleagues. Even when he finds out that his win is bogus, Powell can't get angry at the tricksters, so it's no real surprise that his homeliness, honesty and humility wins everyone over, including his feisty girl-friend, played by Ellen Drew, with the predictable twist in the last reel that Powell's slogan wins anyway.
Powell is very likeable in the lead, although Drew is a little too high-pitched in delivery for my taste as the film develops. There's the usual troop of madcap eccentrics which peoples almost every Sturges comedy, with some nice little cameos, I particularly liked the actor playing the deadpan cop, not above making some contemporary allusions to Hitler & Mussolini to stress a point.
The dialogue of course is mile-a-minute vernacular and I got a kick out of Sturges' Dickensian word-play over triple-barrelled lawyer's names (along the lines of "Swindle Cookum and Robbem!"). Right from the start, we get the "screwball comedy" template of a poor Joe and his girl, dreaming of something bigger waiting for something extraordinary to happen, with Powell and Drew's extended night-time scene on their New York apartment roof-top, and succeeding entertaining scenes including Powell's reaction to "winning" the competition and best of all the frenetic crowd scene when Maxford tries to get his money back only to cop a batch of rotten fruit ("Don't throw the good stuff" admonishes one parent to a tomato-wielding youngster), it's all good clean fun and ends up happily ever after. And get a load of that "zoom" shot back into Maxford's office at the end - it certainly got me out of my chair, not the last time Sturges employed camera tricks of this type - remember the memorable stop-start sequence to "The Palm Beach Story".
The movie celebrates community, the little guy who dreams of making it big and how to meet disaster with alacrity, in short a feel-good movie with a big heart, well worth an hour and four minutes of anyone's time.