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"She Married Her Boss" is a forgotten but alluring Columbia classic,
directed by Gregory La Cava, a modest auteur with a flair for upbeat
improvisation and delicate touch. La Cava's unassuming touch is less
fully evident in this small heartwarming romantic comedy than the
director's superior pictures like "Stage Door", "My Man Godfrey", and
But "She Married Her Boss" features highly resourceful Claudette Colbert as the competent department store secretary Julia that falls for her boss Richard Barclay (Melvyn Douglas); it also has an unintentionally funny, almost surreal moment involving a department store window and mannequins. As it turns out the film is all Colbert's -- and another reminder what a lovely, divine comedienne Ms. Colbert was. The supporting cast, all wonderful, includes
"She Married Her Boss" is the sort of cuddly classic that works best if you watch it with someone you love or care about.
I used to deal in old-movie memorabilia. In the 1960s, while running a
stall in the Portobello Road, I acquired and resold a full-colour
poster for 'She Married Her Boss'. What a bizarre piece of artwork! The
poster depicted Claudette Colbert with blue eyes, blue hair, and blue
skin: she looked a proper Smurfette, or perhaps an Oompa-Loompa. Worse
luck, the blue Colbert was placed against a background in the same
shade of blue, making her seem to vanish altogether ... except for her
lips, which were bright red. For decades, I wanted to view this movie
to find out if it was as weird as the poster art.
It turns out to be even weirder. Who designed the costumes here? In the opening scene, Colbert wears a dress with some nice gauntlet cuffs, but it also has a titchy little bow-tie and a pair of lapels the size and shape of an aircraft carrier. In a later scene, Jean Dixon wears an outfit with what appears to be a springboard jutting out of her left shoulder. In the final sequence, Colbert sports raccoon shoulder pads that are so enormous she looks like a linebacker.
This is a screwball comedy, but it's screwier than it needs to be. Michael Bartlett plays a lounge lizard who charms Colbert by telling her she ought to have a mole on her chin. (Ugh!) You know those horribly phony camera set-ups in which an actor sits at a piano keyboard, pumping his elbows, and we're expected to believe he's playing? Bartlett does that here, in one of the fakest versions I've ever seen.
On the positive side, there's a stand-out performance by 12-year-old Edith Fellows as a spoilt brat. Fellows was an immensely talented child actress who had the misfortune to be much less pretty than Shirley Temple, so she got lumbered with Virginia Weidler roles. Colbert hauls Fellows offscreen and gives her a spanking, which would have been funnier if shown on screen. I was delighted by the performance of Raymond Walburn as Melvyn Douglas's butler: amiable, loyal and eventually drunken. Walburn usually played blustering shysters or roguish criminals, so it's a pleasure to see him given this change of pace. Grace Hayle, a character actress whose heavy physique usually cast her in buffoonish roles, is personable here in a nice bit role as Colbert's assistant.
Although the plot is unbelievable (even by screwball comedy standards), individual set pieces are delightful and funny. Colbert and Bartlett host a cocktail party in the shop window of Douglas's department store, with shop dummies as the guests.
The climax of the movie is meant to be funny and romantic, but I found it saddening and maddening. Douglas pretends to abduct Colbert at gunpoint: we know he's faking, but she doesn't and she's evidently terrified. Douglas and Walburn, both drunk to the eyebrows, take Colbert speeding through the city in Douglas's motorcar, the stonkered Walburn at the wheel whilst an undercranked camera shows the car speeding wildly through the streets. I can laugh at comedy based on drunkenness, but it stops being funny when the drunks grab a steering wheel: there have been so many drink-driving tragedies, I just can't laugh at the notion of an inebriate operating a car.
Talking of booze: this movie was directed by Gregory La Cava, a hugely talented and under-rated director who ruined his career through alcoholism. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but quite a few of La Cava's films -- including this one -- depict characters who solve their problems by getting drunk. I'll rate 'She Married Her Boss' 7 out of 10, but I wish someone could explain this movie's weird Smurfette poster and those ridiculous costumes.
First, I must respectfully disagree with one reviewer here who kept
describing the film as a screwball comedy. Even in the 1930s, every
comedy was not a screwball comedy, and this isn't one (despite one
kinda goofy car episode). It's not a drawing room comedy either. It's
simply a domestic comedy...in fact, is it really a comedy. Let's see,
you have an obsessive boss that has no real personal life, a sister
that's a terrible prude and suppresses any family joy in life, a young
daughter who is so unhappy that she's become a terrible brat, a young
lady (Colbert)who has her eyes on her boss but then finds herself in an
unsatisfying marriage, and a little girl who then pines because the
stepmother who has brought some joy into her life then leaves home. In
many ways, this is a pretty serious story -- with some comedic moments.
Several reviewers have wondered why the Colbert character is interested in the Melvyn Douglas boss character to begin with. A fair criticism. The screenwriters and director sure haven't given us much of a clue about that. But how many of us have found ourselves in an unfulfilling relationship or marriage, ultimately realizing we made a mistake. And I tried to remember that this film was made in 1935. Films were not always very sophisticated back then...they were slowly growing up...and the story here is certainly more sophisticated than many other films from the same time.
Claudette Colbert is quite good here, though obviously not quite as well developed as an actress as she was in the 1940s. Melvyn Douglas was good in the role he played, although it's rather hard to like that role. Two standout performances were 12-year-old Edith Fellows as Douglas' bratty daughter (who develops into a rather nice child once the home situation improves), and Raymond Walburn as Douglas' butler (the scenes of Douglas and Walburn in a drunken state were among the better drunk scenes I've seen).
If you see this movie for what it is -- a drama story with comedy overtones -- you'll really enjoy it. It's far better than many other mid-30s productions...and 1939 was just around the corner.
Sold as and considered a comedy, SHE MARRIED HER BOSS is actually a
light-hearted "women's picture" with only occasional comic moments.
Claudette Colbert stars as the executive secretary of department store
owner Melvyn Douglas who has secretly been in love with him for seven
years although he has never seen her as anything more than a very
valuable assistant. Wealthy Douglas lives in a mansion with his frosty,
hypochondriac sister Katherine Alexander and his bratty nine-year-old
daughter Edith Fellows, product of his one unhappy marriage (it's never
stated if Douglas was widowed or divorced but one presumes the latter
given the hostile memories both he and Alexander have of his former
Claudette's moneyed pal Jean Dixon is appalled how she is wasting her youth pining for this uninterested man and tries to break her away from him and toward rival store owner Michael Bartlett. When Dixon informs Douglas that Claudette is quitting her job to work for Barlett (untrue), Douglas is desperate to keep her and learns part of the reason is her desire to someday marry, he proposes to a surprised Colbert who happily accepts (the scene is curiously not filmed) only to learn shortly after the marriage that it basically remains little more than a business relationship. Meanwhile Bartlett is not giving in even with Claudette now a married lady (after all he himself is still legally wed!)
This is a pleasant film smoothly directed by Gregory LaCava but it really needed a rewrite and maybe revised casting. Claudette is perfection as always in this type of role but Douglas (whom often comes across as the "dull suitor who loses the girl" in the romantic comedies in which he is actually the "real love" in the picture) fails to show any hint of charm that might have bewitched her all these years although his poorly written character doesn't give him much to work with. The delightful comedienne Jean Dixon - so wonderful as the maid in La Cava's MY MAN GODFREY - is badly cast as Claudette's chic older, sardonic buddy in a part that cries for Helen Broderick.
Edith Fellows, however, is terrific as one of the most realistic brats on screen in the 1930's, a pathological liar who talks back to adults and bullies dogs. Edith's scenes with Claudette as a no-nonsense but warm stepmother tries to reach out to her are extremely believable and sensational. It's also a pleasure to see Grayce Hale, usually cast in unbilled bits as fat and stupid women, given a fairly sizable supporting role as Claudette's assistant at the office that completely lacks the ridicule she usually is given on-screen. Katherine Alexander is acceptable as Douglas' sister and comedian Raymond Walburn (unrecognizable in his early middle-age from his best known period a decade later in movies) is for the most part excellent as the long-suffering butler.
The movie has a shocking lapse of taste in it's use of drunk-driving (by Walburn) as "comedy" (in crowded city streets no less!!) although this may have been a period when the issue was not taken as seriously as it should have been. SHE MARRIED HER BOSS is definitely lesser Colbert but this is one actress who is always worth watching.
I've read the other comments that talked about aspects of this film
that are dated, offensive, or just plain bizarre. I was rather
surprised that no one brought up the movie's cringe-inducing gender
stereotypes. Anyone who has seen Claudette Colbert or Melvyn Douglas in
the films they made before the introduction of the Production Code(in
mid-1934) would immediately recognize the heavy hand of the censors,
who did their best to impose on Hollywood their narrow-minded idea of
"family values." (On the basis of this film, it would appear that
allowing married women to pursue a career would bring about the end of
American society, but child abuse and drunk driving are just good clean
fun!) Though the cast and plot look good on paper, the result is
strained and uneven, as if the script had been written to Pre-Code
standards and then hastily cleaned up so as not to offend the censors.
Claudette Colbert plays Julia Scott, a bright, capable, and confident executive assistant at a large department store. She runs the busy office like a well-oiled machine and clearly enjoys the work. It's hard to fathom why she's spent six years mooning over her boss, Richard Barclay. The way the role of Barclay is written, the usually charming Melvyn Douglas comes off as a humorless, sexless cipher. All the more jarring, then, to hear Julia talk about her desire to give up her terrific job and marry Barclay. Without a trace of irony, she describes marriage as "a woman's REAL career."
Okay, she wants to get married. But why on earth would the lovely and vivacious Julia want Barclay as a husband? Not only is he dull as ditch-water, he treats her as if she were a piece of super-efficient office equipment. Once they're married, he ridicules her for assuming the stereotypical role of housewife, despite the fact that she's set his chaotic home in order and tamed his obnoxious brat of a daughter. There's nothing in the movie to explain Barclay's eventual change of heart; apparently it's brought on by a quart of whiskey. So much for good old "family values." The film is so devoid of any hint of sexual attraction that we don't see a single cuddle or smooch--not even at the very end when it's clear that the newlyweds will finally get around to doing what newlyweds are famous for doing. Julia has more physical contact (and chemistry) with Leonard Rogers, her sweet-tempered playboy suitor, who's a lot more appealing as husband material than that cold fish Barclay.
Solid performances are turned in by familiar actors in some of the secondary roles: Raymond Walburn as the perfect butler; Katherine Alexander as Barclay's drama-queen sister; Edith Fellows as the evil daughter; and especially Jean Dixon as Julia's wise-cracking, matchmaking best friend.
Would love to have seen this film made just a year earlier, before the Hays Office started taking their moralizing hatchet to so many of the things that made movies of the 30s worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is Claudette Colbert's. She is terrific and it looks like the
film was written to showcase her talents--and she was a heck of an
actress. On the other hand, the male lead (Melvin Douglas) plays such a
one-dimensional character that he is tough to like. It really looks as
if the writers just didn't bother to write his part with any depth or
care. As a result, Colbert comes off like an angel and Douglas comes
off as a complete putz. Had this difference not been so extreme and his
character a been written a bit more believably, the film would have no
doubt become a classic.
Colbert plays the brilliant and indispensable secretary to the head of a department store owned by Douglas. However, despite Douglas having lots of money, his home life is a mess. He's a widower, his young daughter is a beastly little brat and his sister (who lives with them) is a bitter old hen who does much to make the home a mess. But, because he's totally blind to the truth, Douglas can't figure out how to make his home work as well as his office (which is essentially run by Colbert). So in desperation, he asks Colbert to marry him and work her magic in his personal life. There are two major problems with this, however. First, while Colbert adores him, his feelings are rather indifferent. She is saddened to see that it's more a marriage of convenience than anything else (what a jerk Douglas turns out to be!). Second, the sister does everything she can to ruin the marriage. For a while at least, Douglas is blind to the truth and the marriage is a failure. Naturally, by the end, all is patched up and its happily ever after--a cliché, I know, but an ending most out there wanted to see.
There are a couple elements to this film that might alarm some. The bratty child truly was in need of a lot of discipline and when Colbert administers it with a hairbrush, I am sure some out there might flinch. Well, considering the child was a pathological liar and vicious, the corporal punishment seemed justified (though perhaps not with a brush). This part didn't bother me at all--I just wanted to see Colbert then turn the brush on her sister-in-law!! Second, in the end, there was a very irresponsible scene that made drunk driving seem fun! In addition, this was just dumb and made me flinch at the notion of sober Colbert hopping a ride with a drunk driver! Still, despite these odd scenes, the film is entertaining and a great showcase for Colbert.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The strongest female stars with the longest careers were those who
combined dramatic roles with comedy or screwball ones. Irene Dunne
managed it as did Claudette Colbert. For every "Imitation of Life" or
"Private Worlds" there was a "It Happened One Night" or "The Gilded
Lily". 1935 was a successful year for Claudette - she made the Motion
Picture Herald's "Top 10 Money Makers of the Year" list and usurped Kay
Francis' position as the best dressed actress in Hollywood.
Julia Scott (Colbert) is a busy executive at the Barclay's Department Store. Being so efficient she runs the whole department without causing a kink in her permanent wave but most of her time is devoted to keeping her boss, Richard Barclay's (Melvyn Douglas) home running smoothly - even though she has never been there!! She gets her chance when she is asked to work overtime and realises the whole house is held to ransom by Annabelle (Edith Fellows), Richard's bratty (that's too mild a word) little daughter. Julia asks for complete authority for a couple of hours and at the end she has fired the servants, spanked Annabelle and made a friend of Parsons (Clara Kimball Young) the nanny.
Then "she married her boss" and the comedy gets a bit more conventional as Julia has already put Robert's home life in order before they were married!!! The problem is Robert marries her thinking that she is not like other women - that she is efficient and practical, not womanly and needing love. But she has been secretly in love with him from the start and is dismayed that he wants her to continue in her executive position at the office when all she wants is to be a wife.
Edith Fellows definitely showed that movie brats had more fun and for the first half hour she did - throwing major tantrums, going on a hunger strike and just being obnoxious but after Rita took to her with a hair brush, she suddenly became another movie darling - singing, reciting poems, with even a crying scene at the end!!! The movie was extremely fortuitous for Melvyn Douglas, whose career before this was at a low ebb. Columbia was finding it difficult to get a big enough star to bask in Claudette's shadow. Douglas brought to the role his quirky humor and Columbia was so pleased that they offered him a seven year contract and gave his career another kick start.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the 1930's most studios seldom re-issued movies. But, Columbia was
not run like the other major studios. If Harry Cohn had a week without
a new film, he would dust off an older movie that he felt still could
find an audience.
I was only 3 in 1935, so I was not taken to the original release. I am sure my Granny had seen it because she crushed on Melvyn Douglas. But there could have been a secondary reason Granny took me to the 1938 re-issue. My parents were absolutely anti-spanking, while Granny make it clear she wanted me spanked early and often. Therefore she dragged me to every film she could find in which a child near my age was spanked.
Claudette Colbert plays "Julia Scott" the Secretary; Edith Fellows (at 12 plays) "Annabel Barclay" at 9; Melvyn Douglas plays "Richard Barclay" the "Boss" and Annabel's father.
These days most user reviews focus on the spanking, which was largely talk. Early in the film it is obvious that the super executive secretary is spanking the troubled daughter of her boss. You see Claudette pick up a hairbrush and pat it against her hand. The tells Annabel "This will hurt you more than me." The girl cowers and asks "What are you going to do?" Smash cut to the hall where the dotty yet sweet nanny and vicious aunt listed to rather crude sound effects of a spanking. Twenty running minutes later, and in story time a couple of days, Julia the secretary has married her boss Richard. At breakfast she tells Richard that she will not be going to the office because she is needed at home.
Annabel is on both a hunger and talking strike. When Julia sits down wearing a lovely summer house dress, Richard is upset she will not ride to the office with him. Annabel has a tantrum saying she hates Julia. Once Richard leaves, the girl is cornered. Julia orders her uneaten breakfast be taken to her room. Then Julia reminds Annabel her first spanking was "just a paddy-whacking" but under the New Deal the girl will get an "old-fashioned walloping" which is not shown. But during that morning Julia and Annabel bond.
Another 18 minutes of film pass, and a day or so in the story. Julia is at the office taking Richard to lunch. They discuss the playboy "Lenny" who just sold them his family department store. Richard can't find, and Julia knows he is with a lady pal of hers. Out of nowhere she says to Richard "He needs a spanking".
I recorded this film from TCM on 5 April 2011, but having seen it on screen, I filed that DVD. When I adored Edith Fellows in "Five Peppers..." I dug out "She Married..." and find it good fun, but then I am now 80 and Granny is not around!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"She Married Her Boss" is a pleasant comedy-romance, with some lessons
about workaholics and dysfunctional families. Claudette Colbert is
Julia Scott, the six-year manager behind the scenes of the Barclay
Department Store in New York. While a superb business manager, she has
pined for years for the boss. Melvin Douglas is he, Richard Barclay.
Having had a marriage that ended in divorce, he's now all business and
scarcely notices women other than as employees or customers.
Without a loving wife's touch at home, the Barclay household has become a den of dysfunction. It starts with Richard's sister, Gertrude (played very well by Katharine Alexander), who can't begin to manage a household. It includes his daughter, Annabel (played by Edith Fellows) who has become a spoiled brat. And it involves servants who have used the family dysfunction to line their own pockets.
That's the setting when Julia and Richard eventually tie the knot. And the changes she brings about work for the better for everyone except you guessed it, Richard. Douglas does a fine job of playing a hard-nosed business type who just won't be enticed to warmth, love and the rest of the trimmings even with his attractive new wife and household manager.
This is billed as a comedy, and that it is. There isn't a lot of witty dialog; but some situations that would otherwise be considered drama have a spark when Julia takes charge.
It's an enjoyable film, but one that is most interesting for how Julia handles the Barclay dysfunction all around her. Colbert shows her great talent as an actress in this role that dallies between comedy, love, seriousness, sadness and taking charge to make changes and get things done.
The funniest single aspect in this film is Gertrude's penchant for fainting at things that seem too ghastly for her blue blood to endure. One time, when she tells Richard she may faint, he says, "Go ahead!" and walks out of the room. There is a little bit of screwball comedy toward the end when Richard gets soused with his butler, Franklin (played very well by Raymond Walburn). I won't give away the shenanigans they and Julia get into, but let's say it might be a scrape with the law. Toward the end, Richard and Franklin are waiting for Julia to come down the stairs, and Gertrude faints plop on the floor, and they don't know where she went.
She Married Her Boss is one of those films where the title says it all,
no need for any elaboration. Of course the bride is Claudette Colbert
who's been crushing out on boss Melvyn Douglas for years.
But before she's a bride Claudette is a secretary and a most efficient one at that. She's got the business well organized, but Douglas's home is something of a shambles with spoiled brat of a daughter Edith Fellows ruling the roost and some crooked household help ripping him off.
So it's a business arrangement that Douglas has in mind when he marries Colbert. But he's slow on the uptake to realize that Colbert has romance in mind. Playboy Michael Bartlett is not slow however and he's got a nice singing voice to go with some oily charm.
Colbert and Douglas get some nice support from folks like Raymond Walburn as the new butler who gets tanked with Douglas, Katharine Alexander as Douglas's snooty sister and Jean Dixon doing the Eve Arden part before Eve Arden was around.
Gregory LaCava directed She Married Her Boss and we're certainly not seeing a director's cut. Harry Cohn's editors at Columbia Pictures butchered this one, the film ends rather abruptly though in truth you know where it all is going. And people who've had loved ones killed by drunk drivers won't find Raymond Walburn careening drunkenly through the streets behind the wheel all that funny.
Still the stars and the planets do shine in She Married Her Boss.
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