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The original movie script was about a Jewish girl on holiday in the
Catskills. They put Ginger Rodgers in it and changed it around a bit. This
is a cute and funny movie. Nothing major, just a nice little movie about a
working girl away for some R&R and ending up falling in love. Her love
interest is Douglas Fairbanks Jr, who is a babe, and very funny in his own
right. They both meet at camp and instantly dislike one another. He is
working there as a waiter/camp counselor/gigolo (see Patrick Swayze's part
in Dirty Dancing) to earn money to pay for school. From the first moment
they meet, you can tell that even through all the fighting and cutdowns
really like one another. Neither of them has the courage to say how they
really feel to the other. Of course finally they do and it all happens
naturally. You believe this movie and the characters in it. To me that
a good movie. Thank goodness I taped it off AMC. This movie includes alot
talents, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Jack Carson, to include a
few. You can't get alot of Ginger's non-musical films on VHS or DVD. This
ticks me off people.
PS...If you like to see more of Ginger Rodgers non-musical greats, check out Tom, Dick and Harry, Kitty Foyle, and the classic Stage Door.
Ginger Rogers is Thelma, a secretary seeking rest and relaxation at a
Catskill resort in "Having Wonderful Time," also starring Douglas
Fairbanks, Jr., Lee Bowman, Eve Arden, Jack Carson, Lucille Ball and
Michael (Red) Skelton. Uptight Rogers arrives at the resort and gets
off on the wrong foot with Chick, a law student working as a waiter
(Fairbanks). Eventually they discover they really like each other, but
when Thelma expects a proposal from Chick, she gets a proposition
instead and blows her stack. On the rebound, she picks up with fast
Buzzy (Bowman), who's been staked out by Miriam (Ball). Complications
"Having Wonderful Time" is light entertainment that has nothing special about it except its talented young cast. Rogers is fine as the more serious, less flirtatious woman in a group of love-mad girls. Fairbanks is fantastic, using a completely different persona from other films he sports an American accent and comes across as a brusque handsome hunk rather than a British gentleman. Eve Arden's New York accent is over the top but she's funny as a resort guest, and comedy and slapstick are provided by pretty Lucille Ball and Red Skelton, who gets to do a couple of comedy routines.
All in all good fun from RKO and recommended.
A cavalcade of stars - Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden (all together in Stage Door) This has Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Jack Carson, Donald Meek, Alan Lane (voice of Mr. Ed), Red Skelton, Grady Sutton (made all those W.C. Fields movies). As others have noted, movie lost a lot in translation from the original play, which would be politically incorrect these days. This show has Ginger Rogers in the same formula plot from the Fred Astaire movies, where boy meets girl, girl acts spoiled and insulted, and boy spends remainder of movie trying to make it up to girl. Unfortunately, the script and interaction between actors just isn't up to the par of those Fred Astair films, but it IS interesting to see all those actors in their early years.
Bronx stenographer leaves the typing pool for two weeks in the country at a camp for single adults (presumably the Catskills, though any ethnic division has been tidily scrubbed from the scenario). Arthur Kober adapted his own successful play for the screen, keeping the patter between the guests and the staff coming fast and loose. Ginger Rogers at first appears to be playing a lovely blonde killjoy, and the lack of humor in her snippy characterization is a bit disconcerting (although it certainly explains why she's unattached); she's even rude to law student/waiter Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who should have women fawning all over him yet curiously does not. Douglas manages to thaw Ginger out in time, however a childish fight between the two sends her to another man's cabin on Party Night. Not much of a plot--this works much better as a comedic study of character circa 1938. Ginger's mother worries her daughter will become an old maid (!), while Fairbanks seems to embody the handsome but unmotivated loaf-off. Richard (Red) Skelton plays social director, while Lucille Ball and Eve Arden are two of Rogers' cabin-mates. Breezy, innocuous fun for star-watchers. **1/2 from ****
If the pleasure of watching GINGER ROGERS, DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR. and
LEE BOWMAN in their prime is enough for you, you won't mind watching
this feeble little comedy about a vacationing girl in a typical girl
meets boy, girl loses boy, girl wins boy kind of affair.
And whatever laughs come along are few and far between, as someone else suggested, and the gags aren't fresh enough to sustain much interest. The backgammon scene becomes a bore, as does the party scene with "Heigh Ho" being sung non-stop in inebriated fashion.
Strictly a small time trifle, hardly worth bothering about. No one is seen to their advantage except for the three photogenic leads in a cast that includes EVE ARDEN (wasted), LUCILLE BALL (wasted), JACK Carson (wasted), DONALD COOK and GRADY SUTTON, with an interesting debut of comedian RED SKELTON, billed as Richard (Red) Skelton) who demonstrates his skill with a series of pratfalls. He does more with his small role than anyone else is able to muster.
The original play was a satire about Jewish vacationers in the Catskills but was revamped as a vehicle for Ginger Rogers with all the Jewish jokes removed. What's left is a weak comedy with nowhere to go.
Summing up: The title is a misnomer. It's hardly worth anyone's time but it's pleasing to note that LEE BOWMAN's reaction shots reveal a flair for comedy never fully realized throughout his film career.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***Slight Spoilers*** Things got really wild at Camp Kare-Free in the
Catskills when pretty and conceited Thelma "Teddy" Shaw, Ginger Rogers,
arrived there to spend, from her boring job as a typist in the big
city, her two week summer vacation. Outside her work environment,
typing typing typing, Teddy always tried to put on an act in being
extremely well read, by carrying a book on the works of 19th Century
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and talking in the lingo of a
rich and well bread Park Avenue débutante. The fact is that Teddy is
just a working girl from the Bronx helping her family, whom she lives
with, make ends meet in the depths of the Great Depression.
It's at Camp Kare-Free that Teddy will not only get a new outlook on life as well as personal relationships but also find the man of her dreams; out of work lawyer and now camp waiter Chick Kirkland, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. At first Teddy wasn't all that crazy about Chick after he accidentally dumped all her clothes, when Teddy's suitcase unlatched, all over the ground and then gave her a piece of his mind when she tried to show him how sophisticated she was. It didn't take to long for Chick, with his boyish charm and striking good looks, to get Teddy to see things his way and fall for him like a ton of red ripe New York Delicious Apples.
It's when Chick got a little overconfident in his being a lady killer that Teddy, who's never been exposed to a dreamboat Romeo like him, made a B-line to the camp dance hall before he swept her off her feet. It's there that Teddy met rich and spoiled Buzzy-or Buzz to his friends-Armbuster, Lee Bowman, whom she later got involved in a harmless night long game of backgammon at his cabin. This had Buzz's girlfriend at Camp Kare-Free Miriam, Lucille Ball, not only get jealous in Buzz dropping her for another girl but doing it behind her back: without even bothering to write her a Dear Joan letter!
The film ends, together with Teddy's two week vacation, at the Camp Kare-Free dinning room where Teddy's old boyfriend Emil Batty, Jack Carson, unexpectedly show up to give Teddy a ride home to the Bronx! It's then that all the pent up tension between Teddy Chick as well as Mariam reach critical mass. Chick, who's waiting on Teddy and Emil, is made to look like a jerk when Emil treats him as if he just got off the boat, as an illegal alien, from Timbuktu. It's when Buzz, who earlier almost got his skull cracked by a flying rock, shows up for breakfast that a mad as hell Mariam, who threw the rock, confronts him about being unfaithful to her. It's then that a shocked and humiliated Chick learns, from Mariam, that Buzz spent the entire night with his girl Teddy at his private cabin!
The hilarious free for all, with fists cups and dishes flying in all directions, at the conclusion of the film gives it just the right amount of action that was lacking, with all the talk talk talk, in it up until that point. It also finally brought both Chick and Teddy back together in them knowing that despite not being financially ready, with Chick out of a job, to get married and start a family that's, by falling in love, the only and logically thing for them to do.
P.S The movie "Having a Wonderful Time" was Red Skelton's first film appearance as the camp's goofy social director Itchy Faulkner. We get to see Red do his thing in demonstrating how to properly dunk a donut into a cup of coffee without spilling the contents all over ourselves.
HAVING WONDERFUL TIME (RKO Radio, 1938), directed by Alfred Santell, is
a Ginger Rogers starring comedy produced towards the end to her great
popularity years (1933-1939) of those nine song and dance musicals
produced by RKO opposite her most famous screen partner of all time,
Fred Astaire. Although reportedly a comedy adapted from the 1937 stage
success by Arthur Kober, that success didn't seem to be repeated on
screen due to changes and alterations, thus, resulting to a somewhat
disappointing production made plausible mostly by Ginger Rogers and her
STAGE DOOR (RKO Radio, 1937) co-stars of Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Jack
Carson, Grady Sutton making return engagements. There's also a very
young comic billed as Richard Skelton, better known as "Red" Skelton,
making his motion picture debut.
Following an visual view of New York City, the story introduces Teddy Shaw (Ginger Rogers), a stenographer working in a crowded office surrounded by other girls and over-viewed by a strict supervisor (Elsie Cavanna). It's also her last day at work before her start to the Catskills mountains where she is to vacation for two weeks at Camp Kare-Free where she is to "relax in the peace and quiet of the pines." Following a subway ride to her apartment in the Bronx where she's surrounded by family members consisting of her parents (Harlan Briggs and Leona Roberts), sister (Inez Courtney), her brother-in-law (Dean Hagger) and their daughter (Juanita Quigley), Teddy, the only single girl in the family, resents the annoyance of her nagging family to marry Emil Beatty (Jack Carson), a successful but obnoxious businessman whom she does not love. Upon her train arrival to the mountains, Teddy's vacation comes to a bad start leading to constant quarrels with Chick Kirkland (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), a young man whose ambition to become a lawyer working as both waiter and bus driver. Chick resents the ill treatment from customers who feel they are always right, while Teddy resents Chick's temperamental treatment towards her. Eventually Teddy and Chick come to terms until a misunderstanding and rumors of Teddy spending the entire night in a cabin with Miriam's (Lucille Ball) beau, "Buzzy" Armbruster (Lee Bowman), puts further friction in their brief relationship. Other members of the large list of cast credits include: Peggy Conklin (Fay Coleman, Teddy's friend); Eve Arden (Henrietta); Dorothea Kent (Maxine); Donald Meek (P.U. Rogers, manager of the resort); Allan Lane ("Mac"); Clarence Wilson, among others.
Red Skelton, who would later win fame and popularity in musical-comedies for MGM in the 1940s, and later on his television variety show, plays a comical social director who manages to throw in some of his comic routines for good measure, ranging from his method of dunking donuts to climbing up and down the stairs. Although funny to the guests and workers at the resort, Skelton's routines just don't appear to register well as they formerly did to contemporary viewers. Future television personalities as Lucille Ball and Eve Arden are almost unidentifiable, especially when speaking in strong Bronx accents, and Eve wearing horn-rim glasses.
For a Ginger Rogers solo effort, which are usually clocked anywhere between 80 to 90 minutes, HAVING WONDERFUL TIME is relatively short (70 minutes), playing more like a second feature presentation rather than a major "A" comedy. Its a wonder how much was deleted considering the fact that actress/dancer Ann Miller's name comes after Red Skelton's in some theatrical lobby cards, yet her character role of Vivian doesn't appear to be seen anywhere in the finished product. There are songs, including "My First Impression of You" (sung by Betty Jane Rhodes) and "Nighty Night" by Charles Tobias, Sammy Stept and Bill Livingston, which are easily forgettable. Considering the locale of Camp Kare-Free, it's a wonder how this production might have turned out had it been a Fred and Ginger musical/comedy instead, retaining its CAREFREE title already used for their other 1938 musical consisting already an entirely different plot altogether.
As much as Rogers worked so well with Astaire, and other leading men of her day, including Dick Powell, James Stewart or George Brent, for some reason, she doesn't register well with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who seems out of place in this little comedy. Possibly newer RKO Radio performers as James Ellison or Lee Bowman might have been better suited, although their names were hardly those to draw a large theater crowds. The major weakness to HAVING WONDERFUL TIME is the revised treatment from its author probably due to some scenes couldn't be used for the movie due to the production code. The story starts off well, but once it set at Camp Karefree, it becomes weak, especially the typically love-hate relationship between Rogers and Fairbanks, followed by Rogers endlessly playing backgammon as the guests in another cabin are heard repeatedly singing "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho," that becomes tiresome after awhile.
Formerly available on video cassette in the 1980s accompanied by a second Ginger Rogers feature, CARNIVAL BOAT (1932) on the same tape, HAVING WONDERFIL TIME did show up regularly on American Movie Classics prior to 2001, and occasionally turns up from time to time on Turner Classic Movies. As much as the movie fails to have its wonderful time with its quota of big laughs, the casting of future TV personalities as Lucille Ball, Eve Arden or Red Skelton early in their careers would be sole reasons for viewing this light comedy today. (**1/2)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My impression is that the original play of HAVING WONDERFUL TIME was
something along the lines of Woody Allen's RADIO DAYS. Assuming that it
had been funny, nearly all the humor left with the ethnicity and what
was left is quite a disappointment, maybe the least movie that Ginger
Rogers made between, oh, 1933 and 1949, which must cover around 50
When I first saw it I wondered what had happened with the obvious dialogue looping. Fairbanks reports that he and Rogers had been called back to the studio to re-dub their lines, dropping their respective Brooklyn and Bronx accents. Thus the New York setting also is largely removed from the finished product (Jack Carson, Lucille Ball and Eve Arden retain New York accents that do not strike my ear as particularly accurate. One guesses that Fairbanks and Rogers had been more successful).
I'm not sure if the characters were originally so unpleasant on the stage. Rogers' 'Teddy' was awfully touchy and even snooty, and Fairbanks was downright cruel to that poor little blonde who asked him for a dance. Surely there was some attention paid to the supporting characters on Broadway that was cut out of the film, which runs only 71 minutes as it stands, leaving its proceedings quite threadbare. It seems that Teddy is interested in educating herself (Schopenhauer's Essays and some relatively formal grammar when she speaks) but all that really comes across is that the girl has a chip on her shoulder. You could say pretty much the same for Fairbanks, and no one else gets any serious screen time with which to develop their characters.
On the plus side, Rogers and Fairbanks do have good screen chemistry, and Ginger manages to make a backgammon game the funniest thing in the movie. Fans of Red Skelton will appreciate his first film appearance; alas, I'm not really one of them. And Big Bear Lake serves as a nice substitute for the Catskills, but other than that there isn't very much. I fear I may be a bit generous in giving it a 6/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ginger Rogers, working girl and typist, decides to forget her worries and take two weeks at Camp Kare-Free, a lodge that promotes rest and relaxation. She gets there and Camp Kare-Free is anything but. While this movie seems to be going and getting nowhere, it's the constant presence of young Hollywood that keeps the viewer intrigued as to who's going to pop up next. As always Eve Arden manages to stand out in all the recognizable faces, and one can even spot an unbilled Ann Miller in the crowd. Red Skelton provides much of the humor in some very funny skits. One may leave this movie thinking there wasn't much to it, but the movie does succeed in making the viewer feel they're on vacation, with some nice shots of the Catskills and with realistic dialogue between the waiters and escorts of the lodge. Ginger's scenes with her love interest, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. come off very laid back, once they start to like each other, of course. You could do a lot worse (and maybe better,) but for 70 minutes of escapism with Ginger Rogers, who's complaining?
Arthur Kober's play Having Wonderful Time was fresh from its Broadway
run of 372 performances for 1937-38 when RKO bought it to the screen
starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Ginger Rogers. The play was a
homage to the Catskill resort area so frequented by New York's Jewish
population because of restrictions on other vacation areas. The area
with its own Jewish owned and operated resorts became popularly known
as the Jewish Alps.
On Broadway John Garfield and Katharine Locke starred, but for the screen RKO used two of its best contract players of the time Fairbanks and Rogers. According to Salad Days the memoir of Fairbanks, both he and Rogers did use proper Brooklyn and Bronx accents in their characters, but after the audiences in Red State America had trouble understanding them, both he and Ginger were called back and dubbed a whole lot of their lines in more generic tones.
By the way Fairbanks could and did use a really good New York type accent in Angels On Broadway a few years later.
A whole lot of outstanding character players are in Having Wonderful Time like Eve Arden, Donald Meek, Lee Bowman, Jack Carson, and Lucille Ball. Making his screen debut as the camp social director where we got to see some of his Catskill type shtick was Red Skelton.
Having Wonderful Time is a good screen comedy, showing off Fairbanks and Rogers to their best advantage. But I would probably have liked to have seen the film done as it was presented on Broadway. The days of the great Jewish resorts of the Catskills are gone now so it's highly unlikely we'll see a remake of Having Wonderful Time. An opportunity to have preserved a piece of history is now gone unfortunately.
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