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I just watched Casanova Brown (1944) for the first time. Though it is
not Gary Cooper or Teresa Wright's best movie, (The Pride of the
Yankess was the best acting performance for either), it is still a cute
Cooper plays Casanova Brown a college English teacher. He is about to be married when he receives a letter from a maternity hospital in Chicago. When his future father in law (Frank Morgan) asks him what it is all about he tells him a wild tale.
Within the last year Brown had met a young coed named Isabel Drury (Teresa Wright) they married but the marriage was annulled by her parents when Brown accidentally burns their $750,000 home down (a very funny scene).
He decides to go to Chicago and find out what happened. There he learns that his former wife just gave birth to their daughter and plans to give her up for adoption. Brown falls in love with the child and kidnaps her to keep her from being adopted.
Watching him care for the baby in his hotel room is very funny. The mother and her parents frantically search for the child. When they meet up Casanova and Isabel realize that they are still in love and get back together.
Great performance by Patrica Collinge as Wright's astrology loving mother. (Wright and Collinge seemed to have a special relationship on film. Collinge played Wright's aunt in "The Little Foxes", her mother in "Shadow of a Doubt" and once again as her mother in "Casanova Brown")
Watch for very touching scene late in the film in Brown's hotel room where Isabel (Wright) holds up the baby and Brown (Cooper) shows her how to burp their baby.
Teresa Wright is stunning in the film. Her face seems to glow in every shot. She looks better in this film then in any film she ever did.
Gary Cooper in the first half of the Forties made four films for
director Sam Wood. Three of them were big budget items, Pride of the
Yankees, For Whom The Bells Toll, and Saratoga Trunk. The fourth is a
pleasant and innocuous little comedy called Casanova Brown.
The film was adapted by Floyd Dell who wrote the novel and play it was based on called Accidental Father. It had previously been filmed twice by Warner Brothers and once by the French cinema. It ran on Broadway in the 1929 season and probably got closed with the stock market crash.
All the names were changed in this adaption, but the plot line remained essentially the same. Gary Cooper is about to get married to Anita Louise when he gets a cryptic note from Teresa Wright. He confides in Anita's father, Frank Morgan who is a fellow colleague at the college where Cooper is an English professor. Morgan also seems to function more as a western sidekick for Cooper than a father of the bride for Louise.
Cooper's little secret is that he was ever so briefly married to Teresa Wright. Her cryptic note says he should go to a maternity hospital in Chicago and see a certain doctor there. Cooper of course arrives at some logical conclusions.
Teresa of course has an agenda of her own and I can't say too much more as both women fight for Cooper. Of course with that baby, Ms. Wright definitely has the upper hand.
Casanova Brown was the second of two films Cooper and Wright did together, the first being the highly acclaimed Pride of the Yankees. This film isn't anything like the epic story of Lou Gehrig, but it is definitely a pleasant enough diversion.
It's an opportunity to see Frank Morgan in a rare appearance outside the MGM studio. He has some very good moments in Casanova Brown as Cooper's confidante.
However Casanova Brown has one claim to immortality. There is a flashback sequence where Cooper is telling Morgan about the relationship with Wright. After they've eloped Wright brings Cooper to meet her parents who are played by Edmond Breon and Patricia Collinge. Collinge is a believer in astrology and no smoking. Cooper in an effort to hide the fact he smoked a cigarette in their house, manages to burn their house down. It is one of the most hilarious things ever put on film.
The rest of the film is good and entertaining, but it doesn't match up to that scene. See Casanova Brown for that alone.
Enchanting, wittily written screwball comedy about a supposed bachelor, on the eve of his wedding, who discovers he may have fathered a child by a previous marriage that only lasted a week or so. His prospective father-in-law (Morgan), eager to rescue him from any marriage, encourages him to investigate. When he discovers his young divorcee plans to give the baby up for adoption (or pretends to), he kidnaps the infant and tries to raise it with the help of a small hotel's staff. Of course, much comedy ensues. The story is handled well and the humor light and effective, but Wright's character is not well drawn and her relationship with Cooper seems a bit forced. Cooper is well developed and the comic situations are amusing.
As a professor on the verge of matrimony for a second time, Cooper (the
unlikely Casanova here) learns he's become a new father, by his ex-wife
Isabel (Teresa Wright). He wants to find out the truth for himself so
the hospital directly. One thing leads to another and he decides to kidnap
the baby, with mostly awkward and hilarious results.
I like Frank Morgan in this movie as he tries to be the practical observer and adviser. He shines with his usual wit and bumbling charm.
Cooper, being the 'outside parent' makes an interesting remark at one point about fatherhood, that men can be fine leaders and do great things but can't be considered capable enough to raise a child, all of which goes to show the roles society dictated then and even now.
This is amusing entertainment without going overboard on comedy.
There are a lot of negative reviews for this movie. But I have to disagree with most of them. While it is not the best movie you will ever see it is not as bad as everyone says it is. Gary Cooper is one of his lovable characters that he always is. While sure nowadays this movie would seem almost criminal but the movie not meant to be taken seriously it is a comedy. There is no amazing performances or outstanding direction. But their is something lovable about Cooper's character. I saw a review once that said this was a pathetic attempt at screwball comedy. Well I have to say that is a little harsh I can think of at least 5-10 movies that are worse at screwball comedies than this. So in my opinion don't skip this one you might just enjoy it.
Casanova Brown (1944)
A not-so-screwball comedy, but a comedy, based on the solid writing of Nunnally Johnson. The idea is a really 1940s one: can a man raise a baby? Throw in a leading man who is so thrown by his dilemma he marries or almost marries three women (all in the same room at one point), and so on and so on.
Cary Cooper is the superstar, and he's his usual likable but slightly dull (restrained) self, and he might not be the best for the role, but in a way that's the point, that the man is clumsy and awkward about anything maternal. The cast around him is terrific, including Frank Morgan (who was the wizard in The Wizard of Oz). And the third star, Teresa Wright, is her predictably sweet and perky self, once she arrives on the scene.
It's a zany plot, for sure, and if it drags a little sometimes, or is just a bit corny, that's part of it. The convergence of the various people who are at odds with each other without knowing it is almost inevitable, but when it happens it clicks. And Frank Morgan is key, more than anyone. The photography might not seem to matter in a film that is so plot heavy, and so insane, but in fact the cinematography by John Seitz is really superb, and helps make the thing hold together.
If you watch the first twenty minutes you'll know whether to watch the rest. I really think some people will find this too old fashioned in its humor, and a little to contrived and silly, too. But others will be glad for the non-stop absurdity, for the nice filming, and for the almost surreal strangeness of events.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Gary Cooper was equally at home doing drama or comedy, as he proves in
"Cassanova Brown", a 1944 Paramount vehicle that reunited the winning
team of "The Pride of the Yankess". Sam Wood directed again and Teresa
Wright played the female lead. Based on a play co-written by veteran
actor Thomas Mitchell, this hardly seen movie is worth a look whenever
it shows on cable. Nunnally Johnson, one of the geniuses of that era in
Hollywood adapted the material for the screen and produced it.
Mr. Cooper makes a great contribution to the film as the absent minded English professor who returns back to his small mid western town vowing never to set foot in New York. Casanova, or Cass, asks Madge to marry him and just as they are about to say "I do", a letter, somewhat mysterious, arrives from a maternity hospital in Chicago. Intrigued by the missive, he decides to solve the puzzle, but little does he know what is in store for him.
In flashbacks we get to know what happened to Cass in New York. It involved his having fallen in love with the beautiful Isabel Drury. As he is about to ask for her hand, Mrs. Drury, a woman who is into horoscopes, planets, and stars, sees trouble ahead. An incident with a lit cigarette butt causes much unhappiness to all and he flees in horror, leaving Isabel to fend for herself.
When Cass arrives at the hospital, he is made to take a physical that Dr. Zernerke has ordered. After the tests, Cass finds out the real reason for his being there, Isabel has delivered a healthy baby and it's going to be given for adoption! Cass takes an instant attachment to the baby girl and takes her away to his hotel. Eventually Isabel traces him and they are reunited, much to the consternation of the Drurys and the would be in-laws, the Ferris.
Although Mr. Cooper and Ms. Wright are more than perfect in their roles, some of the joy we found in the movie was watching superior performances by Frank Morgan, Jill Esmond and Patricia Collinge, who as Mrs. Drury, is marvelous. Mary Treen and Emory Parnell play the maid and the bellhop that help Cass take care of the baby. Anita Louise appears as Madge Ferris.
"Casanova Brown" is a fun film, so tune in whenever it shows again.
A man named Casanova becomes involved with a number of women and a cute baby. This attempt at screwball comedy has a few amusing moments but much of the humor is forced. Despite the efforts of veteran screenwriter Johnson and director Woods, the film takes a while to get going and soon runs out of steam. Cooper tries hard but can't overcome the weak script. Morgan comes off best, playing Cooper's would-be father-in-law. Wright is perky as Cooper's wife, but seems too young for him; there was an age difference of over 17 years between them. Interestingly, the baby girl is played by a fellow named Billy Chapin, who went on to have a brief acting career before retiring at age 16.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a well made movie with a good cast, particularly Frank Morgan
as a gold-digging husband. Gary Cooper does a good job with the
character of Casanova Brown. The problem is that his character is so
monumentally stupid that he tries your patience--or at least he tried
Comedies often revolve around some unlikely gimmick, contrivance, or misunderstanding, but in this movie there is one unlikely gimmick after another--all of them totally unbelievable.
For example, Casanova burns down the house of his fiancé and her parents by stuffing a burning cigarette into a wadded-up handkerchief because his future mother in law disapproves of smoking. Next thing you know, the entire enormous mansion is engulfed in flames.
Then there's the long sequence in the maternity hospital, where Casanova submits to an extensive medical examination, after just showing up from off the street, without asking why it was happening.
Next, literally one minute after being charmed by the cuteness of a baby in the maternity hospital, he proceeds to kidnap the child, hole up in a hotel room with it, and teach himself infant care--all without giving a thought to what the consequences might be.
Not that Casanova has a monopoly on stupidity. His former wife Isabel has created an elaborate plot, involving moving to Chicago to have her baby and falsely putting it up for adoption, all so she can win Casanova back. But hey, who cares about the adoptive couple on their way to the hospital to see their new baby! For that matter, who cares about Madge, the woman left stranded in her wedding dress by Casanova. She comes to Chicago, presumably to get her groom to come back and marry her, but we never hear what happens to her either.
Stupidity sometimes makes good comedy, but not monumental, serial stupidity that exists only to move along a preposterous story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The vast number of good comedy movies made over the years are single
theme films. That is, the comedy is the focal point of the film, around
which it plays itself out. It stands alone, regardless of the plot.
Examples of this are "Harvey," "Kind Hearts and Coronets," "Arsenic and
Old Lace." In the case of comedy romances, the romances are usually a
big part of the comedy. Examples are, "His Girl Friday," "It Happened
One Night," and "The Importance of Being Earnest."
But, there are occasional comedies that have a second theme distinct and recognizable from the main humor dialogue. These are most often distinct plots around and through which the comedy is interwoven. One such group is the comedy adventure. Some very entertaining comedy adventures include "Around the World in 80 Days," "The Great Race," and "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines".
"Casanova Brown," is in another group of two-theme films that includes some very great movies. These are the films that have themes with a message or that support strong values. The second theme is the basis for the comedy being developed. The comedy is built around the value theme, even if the latter is hidden for some time in the film. Very good examples of this are "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and "My Man Godfry."
What is the second theme, or building theme of "Casanova Brown?" It's sentiment that revolves around families and love of children especially a father's love for his baby. That's the whole plot of this move, and it drives the humor after the opening scenes. This isn't among the best of such films, but it is a very good one.
"Casanova" is a very good, entertaining film, with overall good acting and directing. Top notch performances are given by Gary Cooper, Frank Morgan, Edmund Breon, Mary Treen, and Emory Parnell. The film has three hilarious scenes. The first involves a cigarette that burns down a house. The second is Cooper's physical exam when he goes to meet a doctor at a maternity hospital. The third is Cooper and his helpers caring for the baby in the hotel room.
The most hilarious lines of dialogue occur in a few exchanges. Morgan asks Cooper about the girl he had met and married. "What was she like?" he asked. "Have you ever seen the sun come up at dawn?" Cooper replies. Morgan answers, "I have. It nauseated me."
In another scene, Cooper has an exchange with the hotel clerk about goat's milk. The clerk says, "Why don't you get yourself some goldfish? No trouble at all, and they die over night."
In the hotel room, Cooper talks about reducing the formula to slow down the baby's weight gain. The bell captain, Parnell, says, "Why don't you put a little gin in it?" Cooper replies, "Gin?" Parnell says "Well, that's the way they say they make jockeys put a little gin in their Wheaties."
In the hotel lobby, a group of people are standing and waiting for the elevator, including the character played by Breon. Morgan walks in with his wife and daughter and brusquely pushes through the group to the elevator button and pushes it. ""Very shrewd move," Breon says to him. Morgan snaps back, "Not at all. You'd have done it yourself if it had occurred to you." I laughed so hard on that one that I had to stop the DVD and back up to go from that point.
One very curious thing about this film was its time of release. It came out in September, 1944, so it was likely being made well before the June 6 D-Day landings at Normandy. The country was then in the thick and thin of World War II. Perhaps that's one reason why the strong family and love of children theme stood out to me. The viewing audience first seeing this film were people on the home front working to support our troops, and worrying about loved ones off at war. So, the strong family heartstrings would be felt by that audience, where that may not be so obvious to viewers today.
Another curious thing about this film was its lack of any reference to the war going on. Nowhere in the film is there mention or even a hint of the war. That must have been intentional. The filmmakers likely had to go out of their way to not have something about the war be seen or inadvertently filmed. A rare shot of a street scene in Chicago showed an early 1940s model car. Also, in the hospital waiting room and at the baby viewing window, there were no very young fathers all appeared to be in their 30s or older. By 1943, the draft age range had dropped to between 18 and 38 years of age. About one in five men were then being inducted. Cooper was then 37 years old, but his character was 31 years old. So, this is one of the very few films I know of in the midst of World War II that shows civilian families going on with their lives and having children.
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