17 May 2012 | bkoganbing
From Warner to Selznick to RKO
In the Citadel Film Series book on The Films of Olivia DeHavilland, her winding up in Government Girl was a great illustration of how the contract players were treated at the studios. Just like baseball players in those days before the reserved clause was abolished.
As we all know Olivia had worked with David O. Selznick before and she was excited when Jack Warner who just could not see her as anything but arm candy for Errol Flynn and other of his heroic leading men optioned her off to Selznick again. Maybe she would get a part as good as Melanie Hamilton.
But Selznick called off whatever film he was going to do with her and took his option and sent DeHavilland packing to RKO where she was put in this minor league comedy Government Girl. She did the film, hating every minute of it and resolved once and for all to challenge the studio system and its control of its players. Just like Curt Flood later challenging the reserved clause in baseball.
Although she overacts outrageously in a part that someone like Jean Arthur might have been better in, DeHavilland does well in this comedy about wartime Washington, DC. My aunt was such a Government Girl during those World War II and she met her husband who was a 4-F in those years because of a history of tuberculosis. I'd like to think they had such hijinks during those years.
America was truly mobilized then and people like Sonny Tufts who were business executives were called in and gladly served on the home-front, organizing the nation's industrial and agricultural might. He appropriates her hotel room using his big-shot status on a night when Olivia was helping friend and Anne Shirley try to get in some quality honeymooning with her bridegroom James Dunn. And then of course Olivia who knows the Washington power scene inside and out finds out she's going to be Tufts's secretary. But I don't think I need tell you more.
Oddly enough DeHavilland is romanced by Tufts, Jess Barker who later married Susan Hayward and Paul Stewart. Barker is a slimy young man on the make working for a Senate Investigating Committee having to do with keeping the graft at a minimum in the war effort. Senator Harry Davenport employs him for reasons not altogether clear. In real life I doubt Senator Harry Truman employed anyone like Barker.
Through his own naiveté Tufts winds up in a jackpot before the Davenport Committee. And it takes a Government Girl like Olivia DeHavilland to bail him out.
For her legion of fans this was not Olivia's finest hour and a half on screen.