Mississippi belle Isabelle and her hard-headed, quick-tempered Jersey fiancé Henry arrive at an Italian speakeasy in New York. They meet an amiable retired judge there, but Henry's back is up immediately anyway. Henry leaves as his car is parked illegally. Isabelle likes the opera, and it happens that her favourite singer, Di Ruvo, is a bar patron that evening. "Gus", as he prefers to be known, is very charming. Henry returns to find the pair dancing. A row ensues; Henry leaves. Isabelle accepts Gus's offer to retire to his apartment even though he warns her his intentions are "strictly dishonourable". But Henry has told Officer Mulligan that Isabelle has been "kidnapped by villains"... Written by
Preston Sturges' hit sex comedy of 1929 was filmed by Universal almost entirely intact, with an A cast and direction by the proficient but apparently not-very-nice John Stahl. It poses the question, will Southern belle Isabelle (Sidney Fox, who's charming) opt for life in West Orange with her obnoxious fiancé (George Meeker, quite good), or will she succumb to the ministrations of handsome Lothario opera singer Gus (Paul Lukas, perfect casting)? It's a situation not unlike "The Moon Is Blue," so scandalously filmed some 20 years later, and its frankness about virginity and conventional morality is refreshing. There's also Lewis Stone as a tippling judge, livelier than he often was at MGM, and Sidney Toler, almost unrecognizably handsome as an Irish cop. You have to accept the prejudices and skewed morality of the time--there's casually racist chatter, and drunkenness in and of itself is supposed to be hilarious--but it's a delightful artifact. And while Sturges' incomparable gift for dialog isn't in full flower yet, you can see the genius he's going to become.
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