reworking of "Dodsworth" but with comedy and less impact once again, a flighty woman wants to be accepted by the smart set in Europe
One of the very best (and underrated) films of the 1930s was "Dodsworth". It was a sad tale written by Sinclair Lewis in 1929 about an industrialist who has sold his company and did what his wife always wanted--move the family to Europe to soak up the culture. Unfortunately, instead of bringing the family together, this trip ended up exposing the truth about the marriage--that Mrs. Dodsworth was a selfish and shallow jerk. "Mama Steps Out" is a very, very similar story and is based on a play that debuted in 1930 and was filmed here in 1937 (a year after "Dodsworth"). The plot is essentially the same in many ways but instead of a drama, the film is played for laughs--and thereby loses so much of the impact of "Dodsworth". Now this doesn't mean it's a bad film but it's as if this reworking of the plot only produced a much more shallow and forgettable film.
Ada (Alice Brady) is sad because so far during their European trip, they've met no one and she desperately wants to fit into society. So, she instructs her boob of a husband, Len (Guy Kibbee) to bring home interesting people--with little success. Ultimately, Ada finds a bunch of folks--folks who are phonies and leeches. Not surprisingly, Len soon gets sick of them and throws the out--announcing that they're going home to America. Ada vows to stay in Europe. What's next?
If I had never heard of "Dodsworth", I would have probably enjoyed "Mama Steps Out" much more. But the problem is that "Dodsworth" is such a great story that the other can't help but seem like a very pale imitation. The edge and depth of "Dodsworth" is missing and instead "Mama Steps Out" is a light comedy--and loses much of the social commentary and depth in the process. It also provides a kooky ending--one that is rather bland. Now I am NOT saying "Mama Steps Out" is bad--it is still a nice and inoffensive time-passer.
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