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William 'Stage' Boyd
Lederer is a Hessian soldier who defects to the Americans during the Revolutionary War.He falls in love with a Yankee girl, but a thuggish local militiaman jealously makes things hard for him while he's a prisoner of war.
An early example of absurd, or "Screwball" cinema comedy, this delightful piece receives top-flight treatment from its veteran director, Edward Sedgwick, a specialist at helming comedic features, including a large number of films starring Buster Keaton, here coordinating able efforts from a splendid gathering of largely stage-trained actors, with each scene thoroughly developed by the ensemble. Albert Stuyvesant Spottiswood (Edward Everett Horton) and his cousin Harriet Winthrop Spottiswood (Edna May Oliver) arrive separately at their long abandoned and very much run down family manor, each unaware that the other is going to be there, and since both have become penniless, they are forced to move into the dilapidated house. When Albert receives a letter from old acquaintances Lord and Lady Fetherstone advising the Spottiswoods of their impending visit to the manor, the cousins are at wit's end as to how to exercise non-existent skills required to make the old house acceptable for guest reception. They are fortunate in finding local residents to serve as a butler (Grant Mitchell, long enamoured of Harriet); cook (Andy Devine, a jack of all trades); and maid (Leila Hyams, who has a secret agenda). The piece moves at a canter, with plot twists and outrageous incidents abounding, yet there is no bloating within the screenplay, as all characters are well-defined, although some are not precisely what they first seem. The film has a point of view, or moral message, that is both appropriate and pleasing, merely one of many gratifications to be found within a script that is essentially the product of Dale Van Every. Having no musical background but for a brief studio stock theme heard over the opening and closing credits, the film's effectiveness is principally based upon smart dialogue, from which the cast readily creates numerous wit-filled sequences. The work is shot within the Universal Studios lot. Oliver wins the acting laurels here with a clever performance that demonstrates her native talent at depicting thought and emotion through the slightest movement of hand or eye. Top-billed Horton is excellent as well, and other strong performances are turned in by Hyams, Mitchell, E. E. Clive, Thelma Todd, John Miljan and Jack Clifford, among others. The film is not commercially available in either a VHS or DVD format, and those who may have a copy that has been transposed from the original uncut 35mm. print, shall consider themselves fortunate when able at will to enjoy an enormously inventive and unjustly neglected work.
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