Auto magnate James Buchanan has a fiancée who doesn't love him and a board of directors who won't listen to him. Brooding on a park bench, he meets unemployed Joan Hawthorne, a fine cook who needs a partner to apply for a 'couple' butler/cook job with gourmet ex-bootlegger Mike Rossini. Bemused, Buchanan goes along with the gag, taking lessons from his own butler. But there's sure to be a day of reckoning... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If You Could Only Cook had been made over at MGM, Jean Arthur would have had her pick of leading men like Robert Montgomery, William Powell, Robert Young, or Franchot Tone all of who might have been a bit more believable as the auto tycoon who gets tired of his stuffy board of directors and walks out on them. As it was Columbia Harry Cohn got her Herbert Marshall is far better cast in more mature parts like in The Little Foxes or the head of MI5 in The List of Adrian Messenger. He really hasn't the touch for light fare like If You Could Only Cook.
That's what happens to Marshall though, he walks out on his board of directors and a week before his wedding to Frieda Inescourt who's from a family with an old name, but no dough. On the park bench he runs into Jean Arthur who is one of the great mass of unemployed. They get to talking about food and Arthur sees in the want ads one for a married couple to be cook and butler on an estate. On a whim as these things are in screwball comedies, Marshall and her agree to pose as husband and wife.
What they don't know is that who's hiring them is gangster Leo Carrillo who's particular about his food. Not unusual because if you remember Goodfellas the wise guys in stir were very particular about their food and were rich enough to buy what they want in the joint. Carrillo's number two, Lionel Stander, thinks these two just don't sound right.
The rest of the film is the normal antics of mistaken identities and mistaken motives and finding out who really loves who after all. It's not a bad film, but not particularly a memorable one.
But If You Could Only Cook attained a status way beyond its own importance in film history by becoming the object of a fraud perpetrated on the foreign markets by Harry Cohn. Seems as though when the film reached Europe, Cohn advertised it in the foreign markets as being a Frank Capra Production. When Capra found out about it, he went ballistic and ultimately his connection with Columbia was severed.
The story is described in great detail in Capra's memoirs and the whole saga is a great example of the power those studios had back when they were at their height.
In fact that whole story might make a great movie.
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