Richest Girl in the World

Gasser

Richest Girl in the World (1934)

     Joel McCrea seems to have a special place in my heart, and the more I think about it, I realize my only rationale is his presence in Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent. He is a lot of fun in that movie with the dry delivery of humor and every-man look that makes him a nice romantic lead. I have not seen a great many of his films, however, so my judgement thus far is that McCrea probably does not have a great acting range, but who cares so long as he keeps within his comfort zone.

     The Richest Girl in the World is one of those films that fits McCrea well. He plays Tony, a modest man making a modest living. I should be clear, however, this film is not about him. Instead, Miriam Hopkins is Dorothy, the literal richest girl in the world. Her parents died when she was four and she inherited all their assets. A board of directors manages her affairs and starts the film by approving her marriage to a man partially selected by the young woman’s guardian, if you will, Connors (Henry Stephenson).

     No one in the media or public has ever seen Dorothy, and the lady often has her secretary Sylvia (Fay Wray) stand in for her in public settings. This continues to be the case at a party that was originally meant to announce the engagement. Unfortunately, the couple broke it off the day before because the man was not in love with Dorothy, who happens to not believe in that mush. Dorothy meets Tony at the party and the two hit it off with Tony thinking the woman is in fact Dorothy’s secretary. Our protagonist quite likes Tony, but when he promises her a canoe ride and instead takes the fake Dorothy on one, the question arises: Does Tony prefer love or money.

     The Sylvia-Dorothy flip-flop is upheld as Dorothy seeks to spend time with Tony while pushing him toward dating the fake Dorothy. Tony, although he is gradually falling in love with the genuine rich lady, has his emotions confused as Dorothy insists that the fake Dorothy really likes him.

     Naturally, we assume that Tony and Dorothy will end up together, but Tony’s behavior is not entirely predictable. The way the plot tumbles, it seems as though Dorothy will have no choice but to reject him, despite how much McCrea has won the audience over as a great suitor for her. There’s a charming scene where, alone in a cabin, Tony stretches out on the couch laying his head in Dorothy’s lap in the dim light of a fireplace as if it were the most common of gestures. Although the two have had a considerable amount to drink, neither gives hint of inebriation. Tony talks casually to the girl while she sits awkwardly with her arms up at her shoulders unsure how to ease into this intimate position. He confesses his love for her, but the mood is quickly dashed by his follow up line. This short sequence does a great job of conveying the sexual tension Dorothy feels and the utmost comfort with his friend/love Tony feels.

     Although The Richest Girl in the World is no gem, it offers a unique plot and some nice romance. It is entertaining but not an award winner (it was nominated for Best Screenplay).

Advertisements

Hitchcock Blogathon #10: Foreign Correspondent

Ring a Ding Ding

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

      All Hitchcock movies have an element of humor to them, even the straight horror ones such as Psycho, but none of his mysteries is funnier than Foreign Correspondent. I developed a certain fondeness for Joel McCrea after seeing this one. I would not say the man is a great actor but he is funny, if not dry. Paired with George Sanders, the movie is full of laughs.

     My favorite aspect is Sanders’ character’s name. It’s ffolliott, spelled with two Fs both lowercase because one his relatives was beheaded by Henry VIII and his wife lowercased the letters in the man’s memory. Only Hitchcock would design a joke like that.

     Set just before England goes to war with Germany, McCrea’s Johnny is assigned as a foreign correspondent in England and the start of the film pokes fun at the many English-American differences in manner and dress. Johnny’s first assignment involves him interviewing Dutch diplomat Van Meer, whom he happens to run into on his way the event where the foreigner is the guest of honor. He shares a cab with the man but after they arrive at the event it is announced Van Meer was detained and unable to join the guests. Johnny also meets love interest Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) at the event. Johnny goes to Amsterdam looking for Van Meer, and finds him although the diplomat does not remember the reporter. On the spot Van Meer is shot and Johnny chases after the murderer. He happens to jump into a car occupied by Carol and ffolliott who humor him with the chase that concludes at a windmill.

     The windmill set is quite impressive, full of winding staircases, windows and rotating cogs. Therein Johnny must sneak about past some Germans and into an upstairs room where he finds Van Meer, alive. It turns out the assassinated one was “a substitute” to make it look as though the diplomat is dead when in fact he is being held captive until he reveals the memorized content of a secret clause of a peace treaty. Upon returning to London, Johnny discovers that one of the men at the windmill, a German in a turtleneck, is pals with Carol’s father, the head of a peace organization, he tells the father of the woman he plans to marry about his suspicions. I’ll stop there to save the surprises.

     Foreign Correspondent tends to go unnoticed among Hitchcock’s work but I really consider it among my favorites. It is full of laughs and a story that unravels in typical Hitchcock fashion.

The MacGuffin: Treaty Clause 27.

Where’s Hitch? 12 minutes into the film when McCrea leaves his hotel, Hitchcock is outside in a hat and coat and reading a newspaper.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!

Palm Beach Story

Gasser

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

     So ends the three-part incidental series on movies about married life. Couples in No More Ladies, Love Crazy and The Palm Beach Story consider divorce but none follow through, which is the happy ending we expect in a romantic movie. The latter, however, might offer the most illogical reason for seeking separation, one the wife claims is based on, what else, logic.

     Claudette Colbert, queen of the screwball comedy, and Joel McCrea, who has a special place in my heart for Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, are shown rushing to the altar at break-neck speed while some woman who looks like Colbert is tied up in a closet and a maid repeatedly faints. That all occurs in the opening credits, and with no explanation of what happened with those side characters, the story line begins five years down the road.

     Tom and Gerry Jeffers (wait, I’m picturing a cat and mouse all of a sudden) are about to be evicted from their Park Avenue flat because Tom cannot seem to make an income as an inventor. Luckily, an old bean magnate who is considering renting the unit decides to give Gerry a bit of his giant wad of cash to cover the rent and other odds and ends. Now that the couple is financially on the level, Gerry feels it is the proper time to mention splitting up. She thinks Tom will be better able to live the life of a penniless engineer or something without having to care for her. Plus she has grand plans to settle down with some wealthy chap she has yet to designate. Gerry flees Tom’s refusal and heads toward Palm Beach where an easy divorce can be processed. She makes her way by train, despite being broke, on the good graces of an Ale and Hound Club.

     The group of hunters manages to get drunk and shoot up the club car, which is when the train conductor opts to disconnect the unit, with Gerry’s things inside. Enter: Rudy Vallee‘s John. The gentleman offers to buy the ticket-less woman “the few things” she needs and take her by boat the remainder of the trip. She soon learns he is one of the wealthiest men alive after he buys her several thousand dollars worth of clothing, handbags and jewelry. John wants to marry Gerry, and John’s sister, the Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor), want to marry Tom once he arrives in Palm Beach (also by the generosity of the bean magnate).

     As one can plainly see, this plot is already severely complex, similar to Love Crazy. It works to convey unrealistically the emotional result of one half of a relationship fighting for love’s sake and one who does not care. Gerry thinks she is doing the practical thing for both of them, and even works her boyfriend for cash to cover Tom’s bizarre airport construction plan, but the word “love” never crosses her lips to my recall. Her affection for her husband is only ever conveyed in physical intimacy, which of course is a lousy basis for a marriage. These movies perhaps act as sequels to the endless number of films that follow the typical romance between couples that end in quick, and perhaps ill-advised, jaunts down the aisle.

     In The Palm Beach Story Astor is her most funny in the role of a princess who can ramble for hours. McCrea plays a superb serious straight man for whom one’s heart breaks while watching him pretend to be Gerry’s brother and stand idly by while another man woos her. As in Love Crazy, a snappy, easy ending allows for a happy conclusion for all parties and explains to a point what the hell happened in that opening sequence.



     The Palm Beach Story is possibly most enjoyable for its wardrobe by designer Irene, who also provided Joan Crawford’s gowns in No More Ladies. Irene masterfully supplied most of the fabulous female attire during this era and was a preference of Crawford’s. Colbert’s character most memorably fashions an outfit from a blanket and men’s pajamas, but all of her ensembles herein are not to be missed.

%d bloggers like this: