Pleasant But Unmemorable Family Drama From Poverty Row
HAPPINESS C.O.D. (1935) is a "B" from Chesterfield Pictures and was virtually unseen for many decades, even the American Film Institute couldn't track down a copy to view for it's definitive reference book on American films of the 1930's. In the last several years, however, a print has surfaced and one learns that the movie is not a comedy at all as AFI (and IMDb) presumed but rather a family drama starring several character actors best known for their comic roles. I was particularly disappointed to see that the great, unsung character actress Maude Eburne actually does not have top billing as both sources claim but is rather billed third behind Donald Meek and obscure starlet Irene Ware.
Donald Meek stars as a businessman who lives in a mansion beyond his means, a widower with a teenager and two grown children living with him (although the older son has been away for a period) with all three of them spending money like it's going out of style. Meek's spinster sister Maude Eburne also lives with him and is the matriarchal figure for the family and this down-to-earth dame is disgusted by her spoiled niece and nephews. When Meek's boss puts on the pressure for him to sign the contracts, okaying a poor quality concrete for a hospital which will give boss man a big profit, Meek is basically being blackmailed by him, with boss "Uncle Lester" threatening to can him, knowing fully well the financial mess his employee is in.
This movie is basically a typical programmer with the hackneyed premise that money can't buy happiness (those kids would disagree) but it's fairly well acted even if it could use the comic edge some who haven't seen the film presume is in it. Maude Eburne is terrific as sassy Aunt Addie, one of her rare starring roles, and it's a shame she really doesn't have top billing here although Donald Meek is quite fine as well as the sympathetic father. Irene Ware as the daughter doesn't have much to do despite her second billing while William Bakewell as the older brother may have more lines but not much more of a fully sketched part. Beautiful young Polly Ann Young is featured as Meek's secretary, she will surely remind you of her legendary sister Loretta not only in looks but in manners and speech delivery.
I have to confess it took two attempts to sit through this little drama to completion. Anyone who has seen anything remotely similar will be able to tell you what's going to happen every step of the way but it is nice to know that the film still exists after so long with it's survival status being uncertain.
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