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For Will Rogers this film was a reunion of sorts because he got to play opposite Billie Burke who as we know was the widow of Will's great theatrical benefactor, Florenz Ziegfeld. Ziegfeld died quite broke as a result of the stock market crash and Burke was out in Hollywood trying to support her daughter by going back to work. I'm sure this was one reason why she and Rogers worked together in Doubting Thomas.
The film is based on the George Kelly play The Torchbearers which had a run of 135 performances. It's been updated to change the plot from theatrical hopefuls to movie hopefuls.
This is not a play that's revived too often today because the message of a woman who ought to know her place is in the home would not be received well. Will and Billie play a middle aged married couple who are happy except that Billie has a theatrical urge and thinks she's talented. She's under the spell of Alison Skipworth, the grande dame of their town who is putting on theatrical productions with some of the town's citizens.
I've got mixed feelings about the film and its message, I'm not sure what Kelly was trying to say. One of the great losses with the age of mass communications was the number of home based and touring companies where players learned their trade. Of course Skipworth and her pretensions are great fun. But it is in those companies that talent is honed and refined. Actors need a place to be bad in while they learn the trade.
In fact Alison Skipworth played this same role on Broadway, she's the only member of the Broadway cast to repeat her performance. In fact when she's on, you forget about Will and Billie.
The best part of the film is the production and all that goes wrong with it and Skipworth ready to have a nervous breakdown. Rogers is in the audience and making rather trenchant comments to Frank Albertson who serves as his son and straight man.
Doubting Thomas is dated and certainly politically incorrect for today. But Will, Billie, and Alison put it across nicely.
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