18 October 2020 | SimonJack
The 10% agent is a big success until two men enter her life
Carol Ainsley is on top of the world as the best 10% agent for authors, musicians, artists, actors, etc. But after selling the movie rights to her latest hit author's book, her whole staff are in a quandary trying to find the right man to play the lead. Meanwhile, across town, the publisher of Knickerbocker Magazine assigns its associate editor and top writer, Henry Pepper, the job of doing a profile article on Miss Ainsley. That's in lieu of one on the hot author of "Whirlwind," Anthony Street, whom no one knows but his publisher. That's because it's a pen name of the author who wants to remain anonymous.
But, when Ainsley sees a picture of the handsome author, she decides that he's the guy to play the lead in the movie based on his own book. So, she wrangles the his true identify out of the publisher and boards a train for Buxton where he's a college professor. Pepper follows her because his way of writing a profile is by shadowing his subject to see what her work day is like and what makes her tick. But when Pepper and the anonymous author, Michael Cobb, meet and become friends, the top 10% agent has her hands full. And a complex comedy of personalities develops around these three people.
The film has a good plot idea, with a smattering of clever or witty lines. But, a better screenplay with more humor would have boosted it considerably. And, it should have had some inkling of World War II that was happening at the time. As is, it's a fair comedy romance. Rosalind Russell is Ainsley and Brian Aherne is Pepper. They made a few movies together - all comedies, that were fair to good. But they each made a number of comedies with other leading actors, including some that were great comedies. Among Russell's best comedies were "Rendezvous" of 1935 with William Powell, "His Girl Friday" of 1940 with Cary Grant, "They Met in Bombay" of 1941 with Clark Gable, and "Take a Letter, Darling" of 1942 with Fred MacMurray. Aherne made three smashing comedies - "The Great Garrick" of 1937 with Olivia de Haviland, "Merrily We Live" of 1938 with Constance Bennet, and "A Night to Remember" of 1942 with Loretta Young.
The supporting cast are all good, though few of them are among the better-known supporting players of the day. Willard Parker plays Anthony Street/Michael Cobb. He played in many Westerns of the period. Ann Savage, Alan Dienhart and Edward Fielding lead the rest of the cast.
There's always something missing and strange to me when movies made during World War II and set in that time don't have anything to even hint of what's happening in history at the time. Most movies made then - comedies, dramas, crime pictures, etc. that had little or nothing to do with the war nevertheless had signs of the time. If nothing else, men and women in uniform would be apparent on the streets. So, to have this film set in 1943 with no sign of anything else going on in the world - that would surely affect the people in the story, seems odd. It's another minus for the film.
The top box office movie for 1943 was "This is the Army," a comedy musical war-time film set on the home front. It far outdistanced all others in ticket sales at $24.3 million. The fourth-place finisher at the box office was the biggest Academy Award winner - "The Song of Bernadette," with a box office of $13.4 million. In the top 20 films, a dozen were war or wartime related stories; and more than two-thirds of the top 50 films were war related.
"What a Woman" did fair at the box office, coming in 53rd with $5.2 million in U.S. ticket sales. But several comedies finished higher for the year. I don't know that any other characters would have made this film better. It just needed a better script.
Here are the best lines from the film.
Dillon, "Oh, and by the way, Pepper, Miss Ainsley doesn't permit her female clients to have babies."
Carol Ainsley, "Any soap?" Pat O'Shea, "Not a bubble."
Carol Ainsley, on the phone with an actress client, Monica, "Oh, but there's no such thing, angel, as a small part - just small actresses. Wh... Oh, you get killed in the first reel? Oh, but darling, think how they're going to miss you throughout the rest of the picture."
Michael Cobb, looking at the gifts that Carol has received but told Pepper that they are appreciations from members of a quartet that's a client of hers, "There's one more." Henry Pepper, "One more what?" Mike Cobb, "Gift." Pepper, "Oh, did you send these?" Mike Cobb, looking at Carol, "Oh, he didn't know?" Carol Ainsley, "No, he didn't know, but he knows now."
Carol Ainsley, "Uh, Michael, have you any idea how this happened?" Michael Cobb, "Well, darling, I spoke to the press tonight, but it was strictest confidence." All the dinner guests at her father's house laugh. Unidentified woman, "Strictest confidence!" Unidentified man, "With the newspapers." The group continues to laugh.
Henry Pepper, "Hello, everyone." Carol Ainsley, "Well, what are you doing here?" Pepper, "Me? I'm the best man."
Pat O'Shea, "Look, Pepper, how long has this been going on between Carol and Buxton?" Henry Pepper, "All the time. From the first moment she laid eyes on him. She's mad about him. Go to bed, Pat."
Miss Timmons,, "I can't understand it, Pat." Pat O'Shea, "She's mad about him. Always was. Go to bed."
Carol Ainsley, "Everything went blank, and suddenly I'm a bride to be."