I have not seen loads of Ida Lupino films, but I greatly respect the actress and grasp any opportunity to watch her. I previously expressed surprise at the difference I saw between Lupino in They Drive By Night and While the City Sleeps. In Pillow to Post, she appears in a role utterly different from the work she had done before. The film is a screwball comedy. For those who are familiar with Lupino, the notion of her appearing in such a story is surprising. Lupino was known for playing cynical, hardened women in dramatic pictures. This was none of that.
Lupino is Jean Howard, the daughter of an oil supplies manufacturer who begs for a job as a salesman because she has otherwise been unable to do her part in society with the absence of men serving in WWII. Jean proves a rather unsuccessful saleswoman until she reaches a town that is home to an army base.
The locale is utterly out of rooms for any visitors as the area is overrun by families visiting the soldiers. Jean lucks out, however, and gets a room at a car park by failing to deny she is a war bride. The car park only accepts married individuals, so Jean must come up with a “husband” to sign the registration card by the end of her first day. After speaking with Slim (Johnny Mitchell) about buying oil supplies and agreeing to go to dinner to solidify the deal, Jean hits the road hunting for the lieutenant to whom she claims to be engaged. She finds Don Mallory (William Prince) who is unobliging at first but manages to get mixed up in the ruse. What’s worse, his commanding officer Col. Otley, played by Sydney Greenstreet (another foreigner to such comedies), is staying in the car park with his wife. When the two soldiers collide, Don must keep up the charade of being wed to Jean, which ultimately forces him to stay the night in her bungalow and almost leads to him signing half his income and benefits to the woman.
Considering how strange this role must have been for Lupino, she seems entirely at ease. She is attractive, funny and well suited for the physical comedy. In one scene when she attempts to situate herself across two kitchen chairs to sleep for the night, Lupino is perfectly goofy in the awkward positions she squirms into. William Prince was not a major name in 1945, but because so many of the studio’s leading men were fighting overseas, he was given a chance. Prince would not appear in a lot of films, but went on to a television career in the 1950s.
Pillow to Post is apparently a rarity as TCM’s Robert Osborne prefaced it by saying most people probably are unaware of its existence. I can understand how this movie that is out of the ordinary for the actress in it would go unnoticed, but it is not a bad movie. It’s a great comedy and romance, that, like many, has its plot driven by a misunderstanding that has gotten out of hand. Often I find myself thinking the characters should just tell the truth and problem solved; however, then we would have no story. In Pillow to Post, both Jean and Don repeatedly plan to clear things up, but as other characters enter into the mix, that becomes more difficult to accomplish. It was nice to see Lupino in such a gleeful role, which makes this flick a bit of a jewel.