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In 1884 lumberman Barney Glasgow leaves his true love, saloon singer Lotta Morgan, to marry Emma Louise, his boss's daughter. His buddy Swan Bostrom marries Lotta instead. Barney becomes a lumber magnate by stripping the Wisconsin forests, without re-planting. After 23 years, Barney finally visits Swan. Lotta has died, but Barney is smitten by their daughter Lotta Bostrom, who looks almost like her mother. His lavish attentions to Lotta create gossip and a rivalry between Barney and his son Richard. Written by
COME AND GET IT (United Artists, 1936), directed by Howard Hawks and William Wyler, is another winning drama from producer Samuel Goldwyn, whose previous 1936 efforts, THESE THREE and DODSWORTH, remain true classics. Adapted from the popular novel by Edna Ferber, author of "Cimarron," COME AND GET IT can be summed up as a soap opera for men, or best categorized as a "guy flick," in which the story centers upon lumbermen, particularly two best friends and their love for one woman. Of the major actors to enact the lead, Edward Arnold, a robust 200-pound plus actor, became the chosen one. Arnold, a veteran character performer with some leads to his credit, gives a sincere and brilliant portrayal in what's regarded as his very best role. While this is Arnold's showcase from start to finish, his co-stars have turned out to be winners in the end. First there's Walter Brennan in his first of three Academy Award wins in the supporting actor category; and Frances Farmer, on loan from Paramount, a newcomer with three films to her credit, in a challenging but rewarding role as a saloon singer and later, her daughter. Joel McCrea, whose name is billed second following Arnold's, has a few scenes, and comes close to being overshadowed, however, his part is crucial to the story.
In true Edna Ferber tradition, COME AND GET IT is set during a passage in time. It opens in Iron Ridge, Wisconsin, 1884, where Barney Glasgow (Edward Arnold) is introduced as the overseer of a group of lumbermen. After a couple of brawls showing Barney is a fighter and natural born leader, enter his best friend, "Swan" Bostrom (Walter Brennan), a lumberjack whom Barney affectionately calls "that crazy Swede." Barney, who is ambitious enough to prepare himself to marry his employer's (Charles Halton) daughter, is quite a ladies man. After meeting Lotta Morgan (Frances Farmer) and winning a bundle of money at the roulette table, he takes a sudden interest in her. The two get acquainted as Lotta agrees on getting the money back for her employer (Edwin Maxwell) by placing something into Barney's drink. Lotta changes her mind as she gets to know him, and following a now classic saloon brawl involving metal serving trays, Lotta runs off with Barney and Swan. However, in spite of Barney's true affection towards Lotta, he breaks away without a word of goodbye to follow his ambition to go into a loveless marriage in order to become a very rich man. Upset over the rejection, Lotta in turn marries Swan. Shifting to 1907, Barney is now president of his lumber company, father of two children, Richard (Joel McCrea), who acts as his assistant in the plant, and Evvie (Andrea Leeds). His marriage to Emma Louise (Mary Nash) is relatively unhappy mainly because he is unable to forget Lotta, who has since died. When Barney takes time away from his business to be with Swan, all of his cherished memories and love for Lotta are brought back when he is introduced to Swan's grown daughter, also named Lotta (Frances Farmer), thus, falling in love all over again, and doing everything possible to spend much time with the Bostroms, especially Lotta. Conflict arises between father and son as Richard has now fallen in love with Lotta and wants to marry her.
The supporting players include Mady Christians as Karie, Swan's spinster cousin; Frank Shield as Tony Schwerke; and Cecil Cunningham as Barney's nosy and acid-tongue secretary, Josie.
While not strong on marquee names, the strength of the movie relies on the characters they play, especially Frances Farmer. In enacting the role as mother and daughter (although they never share the same scenes), Farmer is introduced 16 minutes from the start of the story as the tough, gum chewing saloon singer with a throaty voice memorably singing a popular Civil War song titled "Aura Lee," immortalized in the 1950s by Elvis Presley as "Love Me Tender." This is Farmer at her finest. The second portion of the story in which she plays her daughter, Farmer's hairstyle is lighter blonde, naive but ambitious to want to break away from her dead-end surroundings, and speaks as well as sings in her slightly higher toned voice. Her second character doesn't come off as strong as her first, but there's a dramatic change in the story after she comes to realize that Barney, her father's best friend, is coming on to her. Farmer ranked COME AND GET IT as her personal favorite performance, and rightfully so. A pity she seldom got more chances to play stronger characters such as this. She and Arnold reunited once more in another period setting drama, THE TOAST OF NEW YORK (RKO Radio, 1937) opposite Cary Grant and Jack Oakie in support. As with COME AND GET IT, Farmer's character is torn between her love for an older rich man and a much younger one, but without the father/son conflict.
At one point in time during commercial television revivals, COME AND GET IT used to be overplayed. Today, it's not shown often enough. Available on video cassette during the 1990s and later DVD, COME AND GET IT made its introduction to cable television on Turner Network Television in 1991, followed by frequent showings on American Movie Classics from 1993 to 1995, and on Turner Classic Movies where it premiered February 6, 2007. To get a real eye-view on the career of Frances Farmer, COME AND GET IT is a good introduction to the actress whose personal and professional career has become overshadowed by her years committed into a mental institution. For a really good tear-jerker for guys, simply "come and get it!!" (***)
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