Maybe It's Love (1930)
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"Maybe It's Love / Eleven Men and a Girl" is interesting in that it features Bennett and Brown on their way to becoming successful in the "talkies". They aren't there yet - Bennett is unspectacular and Brown's shrieks are more annoying than funny; later, he would successfully refine his comic persona. The best scene is early on, when Bennett and one of her football players topple their canoe, and emerge soaking wet.
*** Maybe It's Love (1930) William A. Wellman ~ Joan Bennett, Joe E. Brown, James Hall
I love Joe E. Brown, but he was a work in progress when this film was made. He greatly overdoes his loud, siren-like voice, and his slapstick is broad and unsubtle. All of the acting is wooden and stiff. And the gimmick of using real all-star football players in the cast certainly didn't add to the overall acting quality.
The script is nearly devoid of any actually funny lines, and the romantic "tension" that is supposed to develop isn't at all dramatic or interesting. There's not a bit of chemistry between the two actors who are supposed to fall in love. If you are a Joe E. Brown fan, he's made much better films. Although if you are a Joan Bennett fan, I have to admit, her other films probably never showed her off in quite the same way...
Comic Joe E. Brown dominates this mild little comedy from what is essentially a supporting role and there are longish periods of screen time when he all but disappears. Front & center, however, he is very funny, his elastic face and enormous mouth a sure sign of hilarity for the audience. Whether teaching young Joan Bennett how to flirt with boys, dealing with a honey-hungry bear, or becoming frantic while locked in a cellar during the final football game with a very belligerent millionaire, Brown always knows how to churn out the laughs.
While Brown is allowed no romantics of his own, that department is very capably handled by Miss Bennett & likable rich kid James Hall. Their sequences together are pleasant, although unremarkable.
An uncredited Anders Randolf plays Hall's wealthy, apoplectic father. The All-American Football Eleven from the late 1920's play themselves and they are a sturdy inclusion. One or two can even almost act.
This film is sometimes shown under the title ELEVEN MEN AND A GIRL (1930).
The plot (such as it is) has Speed Hanson (Brown), the standout footballer for tiny Upton College, conspire with studious Nan Sheffield (Bennett, with glasses no less), daughter of the school president, to lure the nation's best players there, using her "feminine wiles"!! This is to please the Upton trustees who will oust Nan's father if the college loses the big game for the 13th straight year!!
"Maybe it's love but it isn't college with Joan Bennett wandering at will into men's dormitories" so said the Photoplay review but all in all they seemed to like it. With her glasses off Nan takes to flirting like a duck to water, making the players dizzy with her little girl lost routine and of course her slightly off key singing of "Maybe It's Love" (which is reprised 5 times during the movie).
When she meets Tommy Nelson (James Hall), a star player whose father is determined he will not go to Upton, all pretense is gone but when he overhears two of the other footballers getting hot and bothered about his Nan, he realises they have all been played for chumps. Of course, after she is forced to confess her antics and been forgiven, the boy's dormitory becomes a setting for a medley of the movie's songs - "Maybe It's Love", the very catchy "All American" and a Busby Berkeley like finale, complete with overhead camera work for "Keep It Up for Upton". That's why I just love these early musicals, if only real life was so nice and simple!!
I have read that when movies were first shown on TV, they were heavily edited to fit in commercial breaks into their allotted time span. I am sure that is what happened with this movie. Laura Lee, who had been teamed with Joe E. Brown in "Top Speed" and received more than her fair share of musical numbers (at the expense of star Bernice Clair) was only given a minute of screen time in "Maybe It's Love". Odd, especially when she was fourth billed and in the earlier movie she and Brown were given a couple of duets which proved to be the hit of the movie. Apparently in the original "Maybe It's Love" screenplay there are two Brown/Lee numbers - "I Love to Do It" and "All American" (which deserved more than the chorus it was given). Who knows what happened to those numbers but they would have been a welcome relief. Brown provided some funny sequences but he didn't get to sing and the film belonged to the love birds - Joan Bennett and James Hall.
I suspect the main interest now in this slender concoction are the 1920's college All-Americans. Note that all are white, and one even plays sans helmet, the better to show off his mop of blond hair, I guess. Comedic moments are supplied by irrepressible Joe E. Brown, whose gaping mouth may scare little kids, but with enough nimble moves to match an acrobat. Then there's budding star Joan Bennett showing it all beneath a wet dress-- move over, Playboy. No wonder Edward G. Robinson chased her happily to his near doom in Woman In The Window (1944). Too bad about leading man James Hall. He's not much of an actor and apparently drank himself to death at only age 40 (IMDB). Not much to recommend with this antique, except for Brown and Bennett clearly on their way up the Hollywood ladder.
** (out of 4)
Joan Bennett plays a woman who's father is president at a local university and about to be fired unless the football team can bring a trophy home. With nothing to lose, the girl goes out and tries to get the best team possible. This comedy is best remembered for featuring eleven of the 1928 and 1929 All-American football players but they add very little laughs in this dry comedy. Joe E. Brown plays a supporting part and gets the best laughs during one scene where he mistakes a bear for a cow. Bennett isn't very strong in the film and the movie suffers from her non-comic performance, which all leads to a predictable ending.
Interesting to note how popular tastes have changed. In 1930 there was a lot more enthusiasm for football and for those football heroes they called Big Man On Campus. Now it seems societal values are different and football is bigger off-campus than on. Most of the crowd here wore suits and ties and in one scene Brown wore the traditional raccoon coat of yesteryears football fan. Not much fun or excitement here and the plot is threadbare by now. Wonder if it was more watchable a long time ago.
This plot idea is a serious problem. It's just not that funny and you really can't help but think Nan is a real....well, IMDb won't let me use that word. It helps a bit that the football players really WERE All-Americans from the 1928-29 season...that is interesting. But they also weren't the best actors...nor was co- star Brown. While I've never been a huge fan of his comedies, here he has almost nothing to do other than to be annoying and make weird sounds periodically. The ending, also, is inexplicable. All in all, a forgettable film with lots of plot problems.
By the way, most of the comedians of the day made football films. Apart from Laurel & Hardy, Joe E. Brown, Wheeler & Woolsey, The Marx Brothers as well as The Three Stooges made football films and they sold very well.