|Index||6 reviews in total|
Screwball Comedy is one of the most popular and enduring genres that
came out of the 1930s and arguably Cary Grant remains its brightest
star. Long before "The Awful Truth," "Bringing Up Baby," "Holiday," and
"My Favorite Wife" became part of the Grant/Screwball canon, this
seminal forgotten gem showcased his emerging talent as a light
The loose and episodic plot of "Wedding Present" during its early scenes establishes the rapport between reporters Charlie and Rusty, played by Cary Grant and Joan Bennett. Their coverage of the breakup of a royal wedding and an improbable rescue at sea are enjoyable chiefly because of Grant. This seems to be the first film in which he exhibits the charm, deft comedic timing, and physical grace that we associate with the Grant screen persona. Although he seemed stiff and stilted in his earlier Paramount romantic comedies (like "Thirty Day Princess"), here he seems to have finally broken through and found the character that would make him a major romantic comedy star for three more decades.
The plot seems to be a prequel to "His Girl Friday," but Howard Hawks has always insisted that only by reading lines with his secretary in preparation for the 1940 version of "The Front Page" did he hit on the idea of casting a woman as Hildy Johnson. When you consider the plot similarities between "Wedding Present" and "His Girl Friday," it would not be surprising if Hawks got his inspiration for Friday's back-story from this film.
The setting is a Chicago tabloid (as in "The Front Page") with Grant as a ruthless editor. Although the two reporters were never married in "Wedding Present" as they were in "Friday", they did apply for a license in the Hall of Records. Like Hilda Johnson, Rusty becomes engaged to a stuffy socialite (Conrad Nagel as opposed to Ralph Bellamy.) Other analogous characters include his snooty mother (Mary Forbes as opposed to Alma Kruger), and Grant's gangster friend (William Demerast as opposed to Abner Biberman,) who helps him frame his rival with the police.
All in all, "Wedding Present" is an unheralded minor gem in the "screwball comedy" canon and would serve as a good opener on a double feature with "His Girl Friday."
A rather undistinguished film, the sometimes incomprehensible romantic comedy WEDDING PRESENT contains a numerous amount of potentially interesting plot devices and story elements, but ultimately fails to capitalize on it's own potential and ends up making little to no real impression. Various characters and plot threads are introduced with great fanfare, only to be dropped with no explanation as the film wanders through it runtime with no clear direction. Cary Grant and Joan Bennett are fine in the leads, and even have a respectable degree of chemistry, but they are let down by the film's lack of narrative and structure. Not a bad film by any means, but certainly an unfortunate waste of enormous talent and considerable potential.
Screwball comedy reminiscent of His Girl Friday - which also starred Cary Grant. Zany reporters (Grant, Joan Bennett), an editor who can't live or without them, and some strictly-for-laughs gangsters. An open manhole gag worthy of any silent comedy, too. But the ending is a bit implausible. You can't really get away with that much malicious mischief, can you?
Wedding Present was the second of two films Cary Grant co-starred with
Joan Bennett and the last one of his original Paramount contract. He
would not return to Paramount until 1955 when he did To Catch A Thief
for Alfred Hitchcock.
Grant and Bennett play a couple of free spirits who happen to be reporters on a Chicago paper and while they get the stories, they are bad for discipline and the bane in the existence of their editor George Bancroft. In fact the couple almost get married as the film begins, but Grant's clowning around pushed the deadline past the official closing time and you know how officious some civil servants can be. They stay 'almost married' for most of the film.
But Grant gets promoted to city editor when a harried and harassed Bancroft quits and he turns into a hardnose. So much so that he fires Bennett when she tries to break up the city room. That leaves Grant disillusioned and he quits and follows Bennett to New York where she has now taken up with and is about to be married to stuffy Conrad Nagel, a fate worse than death in Cary's eyes.
Some have compared this film to His Girl Friday. But there is a vast difference, the humor in that classic derives from the fact that Grant in that film is all business and will do anything to keep Rosalind Russell on the job and on the story. In this one the good time is the virtue prized above all others.
Paramount gave Grant and Bennett a great supporting cast in this topped by William Demarest, a New York gangster who Grant saves from drowning in Lake Michigan. Demarest is looking to pay him back and in the end really does come through for him.
Screwball comedy fans will love the ending as an inebriated Grant and Demarest decide to give Bennett a Wedding Present. What they do is for the viewer to see, but I promise they pull all the stops out.
This was a good picture to leave Paramount with and enter into superstardom with the next set of roles Grant would have as a free lance artist.
One thing I absolutely love about films from the 30s is the now
obsolete devices around which some films are centered. Locomotives and
ships of course. They're a bit obvious. Then, they were symbols of
technology and modernity. Technology as physical power something in
everyone's cinematic imagination then now made quaint by microchips
we cannot even see. And films are the worse for it.
Another device is the newsroom. We don't have these today in the same way. Reporters and cops don't mix it up as they used to. We don't actually "get the story," instead get some sort of manufactured fiction that glues facts together in appealing ways.
But 70 years ago there was a magical confluence of what it meant to make or discover stories, what it meant to "see," and what it meant to be an American. Mixed in there was this notion of an alert woman.
Its hard to impress on youngsters beyond a cartoonish awareness that women in society and film were extremely limited in options. Homemaker, secretary, teacher, nurse. Whore. If a woman was intelligent and witty and active, she was a reporter.
Seeing and discovering was sexy. Its lost today, that effect. This is post-code; "Picture Snatcher" is a better example where the sexiness is darned explicit.
Imagine a film that presents a woman far beyond your experience, what you know from real life. Imagine her witty and sexually available outside marriage, at least temporarily so. Smart, full of humor and ready to play severe and grand jokes. Its impossible to do today where Angelina can fight, Tilda can control and Julianne can affect.
But just imagine the cinematic power of a newsroom with such juice. The folding, of course with them writing stories and we seeing stories simultaneously. Our admiration of her just as Grant's and both of us conspiring in creating a spectacle around her.
(For those who haven't seen it the story is Cary and Joan are lovers copulation is obvious and both are star reporters. They decide NOT to marry as not to "ruin things." He advances to control the paper (the story) and she becomes engaged to a book writer. The books in question are vapid "self-help" books that lack the vim of "real" stories. Grant, drunk and with the help of a gangster pal, conspires to give her firetrucks, policecars, ambulances, even a hearse, all responding to the house where she will wed. That's the present: life.)
Oh how I wish we had such power to pull from in film today! Where's the sex in story, the newsroom of today?
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In so many ways, this film seems to have strong elements from one of
Cary Grant's best films--HIS GIRL Friday. While the Friday plot is
taken from the Pat O'Brien/Adolph Menjou film, many elements about the
characters seemed to have been taken from WEDDING PRESENT--with Cary
playing pretty much the same character in both films and Joan Bennett
playing a part very similar to the one later played so well by Rosalind
Unfortunately, despite these similarities, WEDDING PRESENT is from from being a classic film. While up until the terrible ending I would have given the film a 6, by the time it was over the film barely earned a 4--while HIS GIRL Friday is clearly a 10 and one of the best films of the era.
The film begins with Cary and Joan wacky highly respected newspaper reporters (just as in Friday). They are about to get married, but it all falls through thanks to Cary's being too much of a comedian--and Joan realizes that he'd make a lousy, but fun, husband. Despite the breakup, they spend much of the first half of the movie together on various adventures and this is by far the best part of the film. I particularly loved the scenes with Gene Lockhart as the Archduke (this was perhaps the best supporting role of Lockhart's long career).
The problem, though, is that the momentum wasn't maintained after a while. When Cary became the boss at work and Joan walked off the job, the film became a mess. In particular, the ending. In a very irresponsible and unfunny ending, to stop Joan from marrying another man, Cary calls in tons of false alarms--reporting fires, most-wanted criminals who were spotted, illnesses, mental patients, and a ton of other problems at the fiancé's home. This certainly wasn't funny--just very cruel and irresponsible. And, in a Hollywood twist, Cary gets away with this AND gets the girl. In the process, Joan treats her fiancé and his family like dirt. What a selfish and nasty way to end a film!! Had they shown Cary in prison for a year for calling in all the false alarms and inciting panic, then I might have enjoyed the ending!
Overall, not a great film and at best a time-passer. While I love Cary Grant films, I also have to admit that occasionally he had a disappointing film like this one or ONCE UPON A TIME or KISS AND MAKE-UP. Of course, he also had HIS GIRL Friday, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, NORTH BY NORTHWEST and a ton of classic films to make us all forget about these few duds.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|