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This "B" filmed by Mascot and released by Republic is no better and no
worse than some of the "A" comedies and most of the programmers made at
the major studios at the time. This is not to say, however, that it is
any kind of lost gem. On the contrary, it's routine and the filming is
mundane. But the plot - streamlined, slightly complicated, and
satirical - sometimes rises to the level of better films, and the
screenplay contains an occasional sharp line ("Everyone will be here.
The very cream of society." "The cream of today becomes the cheese of
tomorrow."). Still, it also contains too poorly paced bits and broad
humor. Some of this, however, is the fault of the inadequate direction
by Lewis D. Collins.
The delight of the film is Louise Fazenda. A veteran from the earliest silent comedies - her career dates from 1913 - and a solid supporting player in musicals and comedies, Fazenda plays her part with an interesting range: adept physical comedy to poignant moments of pure drama. Her pairing with Maude Eburne is uneven: occasionally, the two hit a rhythm that's fun to watch; yet, as often, they totally miss the mark. Eburne seems at fault here, occasionally playing her character with the wrong tone and inadequate line-readings.
Other positive points of the film include the casting of a young Ann Rutherford and the always-reliable Franklin Pangborne. Still, it's worth a look for Fazenda.
Maude Eburne and Louise Fazenda play off each other wonderfully, as two
long-time friends and partners in a doughnut shop who part when one of
Eburne's harebrained investments pay off and she leaves to get her
into society. The two bring an sense of cameraderie, irritation and
sympathy that is reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy and the supporting
including the ever dependable Franklin Pangborn and a young Anne
The script, however, veers from beautifully played small moments of pensiveness to to unfunny moments of forced slapstick. Eburne plays her role as if she is playing the snobby wife in RUGGLES OF RED GAP instead of the down-to-earth Maw Pettingill, which role she did take. The comedic partnership is very uneven and the net result is generally ill-humored. Still, it's worth a look to see what these two old pros can do with their opportunities.
DOUGHNUTS AND SOCIETY is a surprisingly good comedy-drama from Mascot
Pictures that looks to have a rather impressive budget for a "B" from
poverty row. Obviously an attempt to make a Marie Dressler & Polly
Moran type-comedy of two older best friend broads to scrap as much as
they pal around (it even picks up the familiar theme of each being the
mother of a child in love with the other's kid), this movie is at least
as good as most of the Dressler/Moran efforts in part because while
Polly Moran was really no rival for the magnificent Marie, Louise
Fazenda and Maude Eburne are rather evenly matched in terms of talent,
two very good dependable character actresses able to work wonders when
the material is not always there.
These old gals co-own a doughnut dive but Maude is obsessed with high society and dreams of crashing it, spending her money for years on stocks and claims much to the much more sensible Louise's irritation. To the surprise of one and all, a woman representing a major corporation shows up to buy Maude's claim of a mine for $50,000 and 10 percent profit, believing oil may be in it. Maude in no time moves into a mansion with teen-aged daughter Ann Rutherford in tow. She asks Louise and her son to move with them but too proud Louise refuses which leads to one more spat as they separate for some time. Maude meanwhile tries to crash society with help of professional party thrower Hedda Hopper and while Maude proves a bit earthy for a socialite, it's actually pal Louise (attending the party after her initial declining it) who wreaks havoc on the proceedings, chasing a dog who has stolen her wad of cash around the mansion and turning the event into a farce.
Louise continues to look down on her old pal but does feel she needs to move up financially if not socially herself for her son's sake and the mother and son open up a parking building downtown to proves to be an enormous success, so much so that a rival tries to buy it and when Louise declines, sets to wreck her business.
Maude Eburne is terrific in this movie in a terrific performance as a crude old gal who wants the best things in life but can't quite polish herself up enough to be at home in this new world. Louise Fazenda, a great hayseed comedienne herself, has the more knowing role but in some way's it's also the most thankless part.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While Louise Fazenda had a glorious career as a supporting player, Maude Eburne was known more as a scene stealing bit player. Sometimes not on screen for more than a few minutes in a movie, she still used tricks up her sleeve to make the most of a nothing part. In this second string comedy, she gets to be Marie Dressler to Fazenda's Polly Moran and while the material ain't a threat to that team of the early sound era, the two are game in this amusing but formula tale of battling greasy spoon owners whose arguments over a shared bequest ruin their already shaky friendship that comes between their children who are lifetime sweethearts but break up after taking their mother's sides. Ann Rutherford, pre-Andy Hardy's girl, is Eburbe's daughter and Eddie Nugent is Fazenda's mamas boy. On the verge of turning Louella Parson's world upside down, Hedda Hopper plays a stuffy matron who invests in the mine of Eburne's supposedly gold filled mine, with Franklin Pangborn briefly getting a few laughs as a society instructor. Its all nonsense, but the two hams do their best and offer a few good laughs, making this at least a curiosity of what Hollywood could do when they put the their trust in familiar faces who were usually billed way down the line, that is if they got any billing at all
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