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William Collier Jr.
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Molly Kelly wants to marry a millionaire. When she runs into Andy Charles, heir to a restaurant fortune, she jumps at the chance and marries him. Andy's father if furious and disinherits them. Andy tries his hand at ditch digging to support his wife, but that doesn't work out. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
This film marked the first of many clashes Capra had with Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn. He was not given the amount of extras he felt he needed for a restaurant scene and stormed into Cohn's office. He got the number of extras he wanted. See more »
I viewed this film in the David Bradley collection. In 1928, Frank Capra directed "That Certain Thing", starring Viola Dana, and then he immediately followed it with "So this Is Love", starring Shirley Mason ... apparently never realising that Viola Dana and Shirley Mason were sisters. (Capra mentioned both actresses in his autobiography, but never mentioned their relationship.) "That Certain Thing" is a sprightly romantic comedy of the late silent era, with some of the distinctive "Capra-corn" elements already firmly in place.
Ralph Graves (Capra's favourite leading man of this period) is excellent as Andy Charles, son of A.B. Charles the lunch-wagon millionaire (well-played by Burr McIntosh), who got rich by mass-producing lunches for working people. When Andy marries poor-girl Molly (Viola Dana), old man Charles suspects (not entirely without reason) that Molly married young Andy for his money, and Charles Snr promptly disinherits his son. But Andy is no spoilt playboy; to support himself and his new wife, he rolls up his sleeves and goes to work on a building site. Molly genuinely loves Andy, even though she was hoping to latch onto his father's bank balance, and now she dutifully packs her husband a box lunch that she made herself.
When a minor problem on the worksite makes Andy lose his appetite, he hands his lunch to one of his workmates ... who is so impressed with Molly's handiwork, he vows he'd be willing to pay good money for a lunch like this. Andy passes this news to Molly, and soon she's making box lunches which Andy eagerly peddles to his workmates. When word gets out that Molly's lunches are better than anything these poor working stiffs are likely to find elsewhere (especially at the Charles restaurant chain), the nickels and dimes start rolling in. Pretty soon Molly and Andy are giving Andy's millionaire father some serious competition in the lunch business...
There are some excellent Capra touches here, including some populist humour of the kind which is usually associated with the peak years of Capra's long-term collaboration with screenwriter Robert Riskin. (In Capra's films, many of the distinctive touches which film critics usually attribute to Capra are actually Riskin's work.) One of Andy's co-workers has bought a ham sandwich from the A.B. Charles sandwich company ... but he complains about the scanty portion of ham, which has apparently been sliced "with a razor". Sure enough, in his office, millionaire Charles is gleefully telling his cronies the secret of his success: "Slice the ham THIN." At the end of the film, when Molly's sandwich business is prospering, she reveals the secret of her own success: "Slice the ham THICK." This is such a typically Riskin-esquire piece of business, I was surprised to learn that Riskin didn't work on this film. The dialogue (on silent-film intertitles) is by Al Boasberg, better known for his work with comedians such as Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers.
"That Certain Thing" suffers from the small budget typical of Columbia films from this period, especially noticeable in the scenes shot in the "luxurious" office of millionaire A.B. Charles, which is actually rather cramped and spartan. In his autobiography, Capra reveals how he was able to economise on this movie: the box lunches used as props during filming were distributed afterwards to feed the cast and crew!
"That Certain Thing" (the movie's title is never explained) is an excellent silent film, with good lead performances from Graves and Dana, two actors whose careers failed to prosper in the talking-film era. I wish that they were better known, and I wish that this movie were better known as well.
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