Wedding Present (1936) Poster

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His Girl Friday prequel?
duke10296 December 2006
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 comedian.

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."
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Catch it if you can
clemd24 February 2002
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?
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'Almost Married'
bkoganbing5 September 2010
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.
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Stories, Sex, Writing, Image
tedg21 June 2006
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.
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Sporatically interesting film, ultimately undermined through muddled approach
robb_77212 December 2006
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.
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In many ways, like an earlier and less well made HIS GIRL Friday
MartinHafer31 January 2009
Warning: 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 Russell.

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.
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Too Uneven to Be a Complete Success
Michael_Elliott9 April 2017
Wedding Present (1936)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Reporters Charlie (Cary Grant) and Rusty Fleming (Joan Bennett) are set to be married but after his messing around costs them a marriage license, she begins to think twice about it. Soon he is made editor and she quits her job, which sets off a chain of events that has her eventually engaged to another man (Conrad Nagel).

WEDDING PRESENT was the second straight film that Grant and Bennett did together and it would turn out to be Grant's final picture with Paramount until his return in 1955 with TO CATCH A THIEF. A lot of people including Leonard Maltin think of this as an underrated gem but I'm not certainly I'd go that far. A lot of others have noted that the film has a lot of common things with HIS GIRL Friday, which of course would go down as one of the greatest screwball comedies ever made.

For my money, this film was way too uneven to fully work and a lot of the issues come in the second half. The story has all sorts of characters thrown in and our two leads are constantly having new things done to them and I just found the majority of it uninvolving and at times rather boring. The screenplay tries to keep things moving and as I said, it's constantly throwing loops into the story but I just didn't find it all that funny no matter how hard the cast was trying.

As far as the cast goes, I thought most of them did a very good job and that includes Grant. He's charming, fast-talking ways would eventually make him a legend and his performance here was pretty good. I also thought Conrad Nagel and George Bancroft were good in their supporting bits of Gene Lockhart is also very good in his bit as the Archduke. As far as Bennett goes, she too is in fine form here but the screenplay certainly didn't do her any favors.
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chaotic. so, charming
Kirpianuscus4 April 2017
one of films who must see. not for story itself but for actors. and for the moral lesson about responsibility. in fact, a love story like many from the same period comedies. a shining Cary Grant, a seductive Joan Bennett and a not usual present for wedding. a mix of stories with never end - the story of Archiducke is the most relevant - and a lot of humor in different styles , from bitter to crazy. short, a nice story about free spirits and about media, about friendship with a gangster and the spiced dialogues with the woman who represents the love of your life.
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Fine cast make a fun movie from a weak screenplay
SimonJack12 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Cary Grant and Joan Bennett are hotshot reporters for a big metropolitan newspaper in this film. They are the best at what they do, and they know it. They also are in love and plan to get married. Grant plays Charlie Mason and Bennett plays Monica "Rusty" Fleming.

One of the problems for the rest of the newspaper staff – the editors and other reporters, is that these two come and go as they please. So, the editor can never find them and doesn't know if the next story will get covered or not. They always happen to make it and scoop all the other papers.

One other problem they have is their penchant for pranks. Not little things, but elaborate ones. So, they get a few dozen keys and tie notes on each one. "If found, please return to Peter Stagg, City Editor …" George Bancroft plays Stagg, and we see dozens of keys being returned and a line of people waiting to turn their found keys in to the city editor. So much for fun. After Charlie saves the life of a guy who seems to be drowning, his life takes on a patron. William Demarest plays Smiles Benson, a gangland boss of some kind, whom Charlie saved.

Things get hectic and frantic after the city editor quits and the publisher makes Charlie city editor. He knows all the gimmicks of the reporters, so they can't pull anything on him. Now he becomes a slave master. When Charlie puts off the wedding, Rusty finds another man. Conrad Nagel plays Roger Dodecker.

Smiles comes to Charlie's aid and for a wedding present for Rusty, Charlie calls in a national calamity on the Dodecker address. Fire trucks arrive, police cars, ambulances, vans from the psychiatric hospital. It's mayhem on the street, and Rusty rushes out to cover the fire or whatever. That ends her wedding to Dodecker. Smiles has his gopher, Squinty (played by Edward Brophy) take the rap for all the false-alarm calls. It's his gift to Charlie for saving his life.

"Wedding Present" had possibilities to be much better. It is funny, but it's disjointed and choppy in places. And, the plot has the hero breaking the law big time with the false alarms that could lead to serious accidents. A better screenplay would have helped it immensely. One thing that is never clear is why Smiles was in the ocean a short distance from shore. Did he swim out there in his clothes? Did he fall off a dock? A boat? The studio set this one up but didn't do a job covering it in the script.

The fine cast and some of the humor make this a fun film to watch, but just once.
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