In London, an American street caricaturist falls in love with a young woman who suddenly disappears, prompting him to develop a comic strip based on a "From Rags to Riches" family, that he d... Read allIn London, an American street caricaturist falls in love with a young woman who suddenly disappears, prompting him to develop a comic strip based on a "From Rags to Riches" family, that he does not know is hers, causing her embarrassment.In London, an American street caricaturist falls in love with a young woman who suddenly disappears, prompting him to develop a comic strip based on a "From Rags to Riches" family, that he does not know is hers, causing her embarrassment.
It is a great formula, but it can be spoiled. Arthur Treacher played Jeeves, the great butler, in two forgettable comedies in the 1930s (one with David Niven as Bertie Wooster) did not make a great impression due to poor productions. But a film like A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS or this version of PICADILLY JIM shows how it's done properly. The characters are not arch or overdone - but they all take themselves seriously. Montgomery is a night person, enjoying the nightclubs and such. But he does remember to have a caricature ready for his newspaper, folded in the pocket of his coat. Eric Blore is the perfect butler, trying to awaken his employer using bird calls (a talent he would also display with amusing results in IT'S LOVE I'M AFTER). But he is intelligent and loyal. When Cora Witherspoon's Mrs. Pett makes a sneering comment on Jim's formidable abilities as a caricaturist (as opposed to a real artist like Leonardo or Raphael), Blore's butler Bayliss boils over and rattles off a list of great artists who were gifted caricaturists, such as Daumier and Thomas Nast, and ending with Goya. Frank Morgan has not performed on stage in 20 years, but he is proud of his greatest role - as Osric in Hamlet (Peter Cushing in the Olivier film, and Robin Williams in Keneth Branagh's version). He uses it (successfully) to fool the Petts into accepting him into their family, while he secretly romances Mrs. Pett's younger sister (Billie Burke - the only one who realizes the truth in the masquerade).
In Wodehouse the road to love is never easy. Robert Montgomery makes a successful comic strip out of the Pett family (Witherspoon, Grant Mitchell, and Tommy Bupp) in revenge for their snootiness (actually it is the snootiness of Witherspoon - she thinks Morgan is a fortune hunter, and Mitchell is her henpecked husband who goes along with her; the boy Ogden Pett is one of those obnoxious kids in Wodehouse who enliven his books - actually Ogden is thoughtless and rude, but he actually thinks it's cool that he's in a comic strip). Montgomery learns that Madge Blake, the woman he loves, is angry at the comic strip and it's artist. He has to try to undue the damage his successful strip has done to try to win Madge back.
The film is a sparkling little drink of champagne, which the best of Wodehouse usually is. It's nice to see that for a change, Hollywood got the literary property's spirit right.
- Feb 1, 2006