The seduction plans of novelist Malcolm Niles go awry when actress Vivian Herford brings along her mother to a candlelight dinner in his New York apartment. When they talk of marriage, Malcolm decides to make a tour promoting his new book, and in a small southern town meets Nancy Briggs at an autographing session at the local bookstore. Nancy is getting married that night, but her fiancé, working in New York, doesn't come back for the wedding, so her family gives her the fare to go to New York to find him. At the same time, Malcolm gets a wire from his publisher and friend, Robert Hanson, telling him to come home because Vivian has left town. Traveling to New York on the same train, Nancy proves to be a pest who Malcolm hopes to avoid once they arrive, but when Nancy can't find her fiancé, she goes to Malcolm, since he's the only one she knows in the city. He is about to kick her out when Vivian returns, so he uses Nancy as an excuse to get rid of Vivian. In the ensuing days, Nancy ... Written by
Arthur Hausner <email@example.com>
THREE LOVES HAS NANCY is a delicious overlooked romantic comedy from 1938, closer to slapstick than screwball. Janet Gaynor was one of the absolute top female movie stars for almost a dozen years when this was made but little did the public know she was making her swansong as a star, soon to retire to marry and start a family. Well known for her heart-touching dramatic performances, this movie proves she was also an excellent comedienne and perhaps should have done more work in the genre.
Robert Montgomery is a popular novelist living in Manhattan, a spoiled, confirmed bachelor (the old style, the kind that likes women but not marriage) who finds his current girlfriend actress Claire Dodd and her ambitious Cora Witherspoon a little tougher to wrangle away from in his attempts to keep his unmarried state than he's used to. His longtime best friend (and now editor) Franchot Tone tells him to accept a publicity tour for his books to get away from the gals attempts to brand him. While out in the sticks he meets sweet little chatterbox hillbilly Nancy (Janet Gaynor) who attends his department store lecture and buys his book due to her mother's prompting (she's quite appalled to learn book will cost her a whopping two dollars and regrets having him sign it before learning this, now that it's "ruined" she is stuck with buying it.) It's the eve of her wedding to local boy George who is away in New York making good but is due in any minute for the wedding. Montgomery gets a telegram learning Claire is away on tour and Gaynor gets one that George is calling off the marriage for mysterious reasons so they both get on the train to New York at the same time, Janet to find out what is up with George.
Janet doesn't find George but she does track down Robert and through a series of complications ends up working as the cook for his best friend Franchot. Franchot quickly falls in love with her (who knew the way to a New York playboy's heart was homemade butter and pancakes?) but it's clear Janet, while trying to track down George, is becoming drawn to the shallow storyteller Robert.
This movie seems blatantly inspired by Noel Coward's DESIGN FOR LIVING with two best friends in Manhattan becoming rivals for the affections of a sassy little minx though cleverly camouflaged by Janet's rural South background and the slapstick comedy. Of the three stars I feel Janet comes out best although Robert Montgomery is in his element in his stock semi-cad heartthrob. Franchot Tone is fine but as has been mentioned is almost an unnecessary third wheel given the unusual brevity of the film for an "A" movie from MGM (scarcely 70 minutes)and the fast-paced story. Of the supporting cast, Cora Witherspoon stands out, for once remarkably chic and dolled up in mink through still the brash dame she always is. Guy Kibbee's role as Janet's father is surprisingly small, scarcely more than a line or two despite his playing the lead in scores of B's and major featured parts in films during this period. Watch for early talkie star Grant Withers in a bit as the restaurant patron Janet is unknowingly flirting with as well as handsome Kane Richmond, a C movie favorite, as his buddy and dining companion.
The movie boasts elegant art deco sets for the neighboring penthouse apartments of Montgomery and Tone (they share a terrace that allows them to walk in and out of each other's apartments and in one of the more blatant lifts from DESIGN FOR LIVING have an almost suspiciously close relationship but one as in the Coward play watered down by their rivalry.) This movie moves so fast and at just 70 minutes it's over almost before you know it, ending with a good running gag which tops even the surprise last reel appearance of George but fans of 1930's romantic comedies will eat this up like Nancy's tasty vittles.
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