14 December 2001 | selfhelpradio
Quaint & charming screwball comedy from a time long ago
All Patsy Douglas wanted was a seat on the subway. She dreamed of a better position at the advertising agency at which she worked; what she was doing was mimeographing all day long. She dreamily eyed the firm's leader, Sam Morley, & wrote trite jingles for ad campaigns in her spare time. When the Baxter Baby Food account went bad, she took the little doll from the display & carried it with her on the subway. Viola! Passengers, thinking they were helping a woman with a child, stood to let the young mother sit.
Except. One visit she happened to sit next to Cyrus Baxter himself, the crusty, hot-tempered, terminally unhappy curmudgeon who runs the baby food company. She happens to mention that the baby is named after him, Cyrus Baxter Douglas (the people at the firm named the doll "Cyrus," for obvious reasons), & the old man, not revealing his identity to her, is so flattered that she paid him that compliment that he begins to insinuate himself into her life, to help out the namesake he never knew he had.
As you may well imagine, the movie takes off from there. Morley & his partner find themselves having to promote the well-meaning, earnest Patsy to save the account. If you've seen any screwball comedies, you'll be able to anticipate when & where the plots & plans go awry. Betsy Drake, as Patsy, is a bit of a cipher - not terribly pretty, she has a sort of stagey, Laura Linney-esque way of acting. Neither Dennis Morgan or Zachary Scott as her two bosses have the stand-out traits of characters in a Preston Sturges film, though they do play off each other rather well. Edmund Gwenn as the volatile Cyrus Baxter is the movie's real treat - a sort of diminutive, flustered, uptight second cousin of Lionel Barrymore's Henry Potter. The scene between him & Betsy Drake involving Longfellow's "Hiawatha" is screamingly funny.
Most probably they couldn't make a film like this today, not without the tongue in the cheek as "The Hudsucker Proxy," & cameos in this film of soon-to-be-television-stars William Frawley & Barbara Billingsley reminded me how shows like "I Love Lucy" (where Frawley played neighbor Fred Mertz) made most screwball comedy misunderstandings & false leads into television cliche. But this movie, unrushed & quiet in its charm, unembarrassed about its lack of stars or its silliness, manages to entertain in precisely the way it was meant to. You get caught up beyond its corniness.
It's no "His Girl Friday," but probably wasn't meant to be. It has some good laughs & it's funnier than any modern comedy I've seen recently. Recommended for those who've seen all the Capra & Sturges flicks & can live with a fix that's a couple of shades below.