International con artist Martha Hicks a.k.a. Countess von Claudwig is released from another stay in prison and decides to treat her rheumatism with a stay at her estranged husband's hotel ...
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Robert Z. Leonard
International con artist Martha Hicks a.k.a. Countess von Claudwig is released from another stay in prison and decides to treat her rheumatism with a stay at her estranged husband's hotel at a Wisconsin spa. There undercover, she checks in on the two daughters she abandoned as infants. One wishes to marry an upstanding young man, but his priggish father wants him to marry money. The younger daughter has taken up with hood. Though denying any filial bond, the Countess uses her wiles to try to get her family on track and avoid the detective on her trail. Written by
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
Paramount's premier comedic supporting actress of the 1930s gets a star turn as an international con artist. Alison Skipworth (who must have been the template for Patricia Routledge) is perfect as a con woman posing as a world-traveling countess. The Countess has had run-ins with the law for 20 years and is familiar with almost every prison in North America. Suffering from a bit of rheumatism since her last imprisonment and apparently seeking a place to hold up for a while, she journeys back to Wisconsin to stay at the spa hotel run by the husband and daughters she abandoned 20 years before. All along the way, she pulls every trick she knows to keep herself in the chips. Husband Elmer Hicks (always funny Richard Bennett), an eccentric with a fetish for inappropriately placed music boxes (including in the toilet), helps her keep her identity under wraps, and the two daughter have no idea she is their mother. There is a lovely bit of subtlety as the Countess professes no concern for the welfare of her kids but works in the background to turn their fortunes around. She schemes to break off the relationship her younger daughter has formed with a smarmy mug (George Raft in a quietly comedic performance). The Countess also cons an even smarmier mug, the bank president whose greed has not allowed his son to marry the Countess's older daughter. The investigator (J. Farrell MacDonald) who has been arresting the Countess for 20 years just happens to show up at the same spa for his health just in time to get tangled in all the schemes. Everyone is perfectly cast. MacDonald is delightful, and it's somehow amusing to see Raft being constantly manhandled (when not being girl-handled). There is both witty dialogue and slapstick humor. The physical comedy is a great contrast to Skipworth's put-on dignity. She is the definition of an old pro. Skipworth and Raft were also happily cast together soon after in the winning comedies Night After Night and the Midnight Club. They, along with Bennett, also scored high marks in the marvelous If I Had a Million.
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