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Joy of Living (1938)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Musical, Romance  |  6 May 1938 (USA)
6.5
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 469 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 5 critic

Broadway star Margaret Garrett has spent her whole life working to support her sponging relatives. When she meets carefree Dan Webster, she learns how to have fun for the first time.

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(screen play), (screen play) (as Graham Baker) , 3 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Dan
...
Minerva
Guy Kibbee ...
Dennis
Jean Dixon ...
Harrison
Eric Blore ...
Potter
...
Salina
Warren Hymer ...
Mike
...
Cafe Owner
Frank Milan ...
Bert Pine
Dorothy Steiner ...
Dotsy Pine
Estelle Steiner ...
Betsy Pine
Phyllis Kennedy ...
Marie
...
Orchestra Leader
James Burke ...
Mac
Edit

Storyline

Broadway star Margaret Garrett has spent her whole life working to support her sponging relatives. When she meets carefree Dan Webster, she learns how to have fun for the first time. Written by Daniel Bubbeo <dbubbeo@cmp.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

THAT MAD NIGHT AT THE RINK WHEN SHE FELL AND BROKE HER PROMISE! (IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?) (original poster-all caps) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

6 May 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alegria de Viver  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Goofs

When Dan flies off the end of 'Crack the Whip' into the seated men, the initial shot shows the men on chairs close to the fence edging the rink but the shots of the crash show the chairs some distance from the fence. See more »

Quotes

Dennis: Ah, my dear, I've been drinking for over forty years and I've never acquired the habit yet.
See more »

Connections

References Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) See more »

Soundtracks

Rock-a-Bye Baby
(1886) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Effie I. Canning
Sung by Irene Dunne to the twins
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Plucking Petals with Irene and Douglas Jr.
11 March 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The elegant and circumspect soprano Irene Dunne, the charming and sophisticated Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the vivacious and witty Lucille Ball, a host of character performers, including Alice Brady, Warren Hymer, Eric Blore, Phyllis Kennedy AND Franklin Pangborn, with a score by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields... What more talent could a comedy require to fulfill the screen classics' mold?

"Joy of Living" (RKO-Radio 1938) contains all of this and more, considering the wisecracking antics of Margaret Garret's (Miss Dunne) Assistant, Harrison (Jean Dixon), who helps to advance this film's plot whereas most other characters--including that of leading man Dan Brewster (Douglas Jr.)--are written without very much in the way of dimension.

Here, it is (quite naturally) up to Irene to serve as Moral Center and Douglas (with able assistance from Miss Dixon) to advance the story of Musical stage star Margaret Garret's decision to continue along with her overly-demanding career or to sail away in a carefree lifestyle.

Whether or not she may balance both entities isn't an option granted to Margaret Garret, although Irene would play the character as responsible as the script allows.

Sometimes one wonders why Miss Dunne would pass on a script like "Follow the Fleet" (RKO 1936) - an Irving Berlin scored picture - in order to embark upon a lesser Musical later on. One may speculate that she has already "Been there, done that" with Randolph, Fred and Ginger in "Roberta" (RKO 1935) - also a Jerome Kern scored film; perhaps for the choice of songs, perhaps to co-star with Douglas?

In many another film, Irene Dunne conveys to an audience her characters' motivations and decision-making processes, enriching her pathos therein. Here, she explains to her Assistant (Miss Dixon) her reasons for desiring to support her family (which hadn't much in the way of material wealth before she arose to Broadway fame) and toward her feelings of the moment for Dan, usually when she loves him not.

Margaret's family consists here of parents, Minerva (Alice Brady) and Dennis Garret (Guy Kibbee), sister and brother-in-law Salina (Lucille Ball) and Bert Pine (Frank Milan) and twin toddler nieces, Dotsy (Dorothy Steiner) and Betsy Pine (Estelle Steiner).

Minerva cherishes Margaret's theatre wealth to purchase antiques, Dennis to stock up on alcohol, Bert to sponge idly. Salina, too, depends entirely upon her sister but also serves as her understudy, publicly complaining about the importunity to appear on stage, yet privately gloating over the opportunity to share Margaret's illustrious living quarters.

"Joy of Living" opens lavishly with Margaret, attired in exquisite white gown with a dozen or so tuxedo-clad escorts on hand, to serenade "What's Good About Good Night?" as her show's finale. After being "received" by family and admirers in her cramped dressing room, she exits the theatre to be hounded by a mob of autograph seekers, who uncontrollably begin to usurp her wrap and accessories.

Enter Dan Brewster, to whisk Margaret to the safety of his limousine; yet, from there, upon her appreciative rejection, he begins to stalk the star for his own purposes, which include his attempt to free her of her responsibilities to career, fans and family.

Along the way, Margaret cleverly ushers Dan to a police station, to have him arrested although he does not seem to mind in the least, laughing off this action as he does most throughout the film. According to this script, she could spare his incarceration if only in the event that she would volunteer to serve as his custodian. Okay.

Film quality ranks a little below standard for cinematography in certain scenes although overall fine. Sound quality, however, leaves plenty to be desired.

In short, it's noisy. For one thing, its score wouldn't have made Jerome Kern or Dorothy Fields famous of its own merit. There is much cacophony on the home front from the twins and other distractions, as well as that duck quacking going on.

It's supposed to be a distracting setting in order for Margaret to need a reason to escape if she likes. But if you listen at low volume, then you may miss a deal of conversation involving our soft-spoken stars.

Douglas appears in four comedies in 1938, "Joy of Living," the first and longest. He plays his leading roles in the other three a bit more seriously than as Dan Brewster, here: as Jim Trevor in "The Rage of Paris," at Universal, co-starring the lovely Danielle Darrieux; as Chick Kirkland in "Having Wonderful Time," back at RKO, opposite the glamorous Ginger Rogers; and as Richard Carleton in "The Young in Heart," at United Artists, along with the perky Janet Gaynor, in her last feature film starring role.

Irene, however, makes her sole 1938 feature appearance in "Joy of Living," which she sandwiches between two other RKO productions, "The Awful Truth" (1937), opposite Cary Grant, and "Love Affair" (1939), co-starring Charles Boyer.

Alice Brady marks one of her last appearances in "Joy of Living," with a mere two to follow before her untimely passing. Actually, Miss Brady and Miss Dunne share an age difference of six years, a shorter span than the difference between Irene and Douglas, one of her youngest leading men in a Romance.

So, whether or not you may consider "Joy of Living" a film classic, it still serves as a gem in the Golden Age archives because of the elegant and circumspect soprano Irene Dunne, the charming and sophisticated Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the vivacious and witty Lucille Ball, a host of character performers, including Alice Brady, Warren Hymer, Eric Blore, Phyllis Kennedy AND Franklin Pangborn, plus a score by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.


12 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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