The Screwball Comedy was virtually invented at Columbia Studios, during the height of the depression. Following the huge success of Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934). Columbia would make more of these madcap roman... more »tic comedies than any other studio. Typical "Screwballs" features marital mix-ups and plenty of opportunities to poke fun at the wealthy, while allowing audiences to dwell in the luxury of the upper-class. These films also offered some of the best roles for actresses in this period, such as working-girls in a man's world (Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday), or socially liberal gals battling restrictive upper-crust society (Katharine Hepburn in Holiday). A breezy approach to male and female roles was a hallmark of the Screwball Comedy. For this collection, the studio digs deep into its vaults for four classics of the genre.
Jean Arthur stars as a down-on-her-luck cook who charms a millionaire (Herbert Marshall) into playing along as her husband so they can get work in If You Could Only Cook, then as a girl who finds herself legally-wedded to two men (Fred MacMurray and Melvyn Douglas) in Too Many Husbands. Another screen legend, Rosalind Russell, shines as the "other" sister who's pretty, young sister (Janet Blair) brings a host of eccentrics through their Greenwich Village apartment in the original film version of My Sister Eileen. Russell then battles her patient's (Lee Bowman) impulses while suppressing her own as a button-down psychiatrist in She Wouldn't Say Yes.« less
A good collection of rarely seen Columbia comedies
calvinnme | 05/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set includes four films: If You Could Only Cook (1935), Too Many Husbands (1940), My Sister Eileen (1942), She Wouldn't Say Yes (1945) All of these were made after the pre-code era ended, and they're pretty hard to find or see unless you have Turner Classic Movies, which has had access to the "Columbia B's" since 2007. In fact, that's the way I was able to see two of the four.
"Too Many Husbands" - directed by Wesley Ruggles - is reminiscent of "My Favorite Wife", except this time it is the husband that was shipwrecked and presumed dead. Jean Arthur is the wife, Fred McMurray plays husband number one, and Melvyn Douglas plays husband number two. Another departure is that here the wife has been remarried for a year versus "My Favorite Wife" where the second marriage has barely started.
"If You Could Only Cook" has Herbert Marshall playing an automobile executive who is bored with his life. While sitting on a park bench one day he is mistaken by a cook as one of the many unemployed. She wants to apply for a different job, but that job require a cook/butler husband/wife team. She asks Marshall's character to apply for the job with her and pose as her husband. He decides this is just the change of pace he is looking for. The problem is they are not married and they are required to share a room with one double bed.
"My Sister Eileen" stars Rosalind Russell as an aspiring writer who moves from Ohio to New York to pursue her dream. She takes along her younger and very attractive sister, and the two wind up sharing a basement apartment where they are subjected to a parade of the friends and clients of ex-tenants and a less than honest landlord. If you liked Rosalind in her other screwball comedy roles you'll like this film.
"She Wouldn't Say Yes" also stars Rosalind Russell and is probably the least of the lot. Russell plays an army psychiatrist in this one and - if memory serves me correctly - she keeps denying that shell shock even exists. The rest of the cast is pretty much anonymous except Percy Kilbride as a judge, doing a fine job as always.
There is also a 1946 Columbia short included entitled "Ain't Love Cuckoo" directed by Jules White, who directed all of the Columbia shorts in the 1940's, including those of the Three Stooges. You may, or may not, consider this an extra feature.
The prints I saw of these looked pretty good when they were aired, so I assume the quality will be good on this DVD set too. You have to be careful with Sony. Sometimes they put out a great quality set like with the Three Stooges sets and the Cary Grant boxed set, and sometimes their DVDs look like VHS transfers."
One Rosalind Russell Classic and a Little Known Jean Arthur
Doug - Haydn Fan | California | 08/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my earlier review of the color musical remake of "My Sister Eileen" My Sister Eileen I discussed at some length the many superior charms of the (then) unavailable Rosalind Russell version of "My Sister Eileen", and complained of its absence from DVD. Well at last the outstanding 1942 "My Sister Eileen" with Rosalind Russell in absolute top form is available on DVD. Following sensational roles in 1939's "The Women", and 1940's "His Girl Friday", Russell's hilarious performance as the no-nonsense big sister of beautiful Eileen earned Russell her first (of four) Oscar nominations. Not until Auntie Mame would she again touch such comedic heights. If you enjoy Russell in any of those films you're in for a treat here.
"If You Could Only Cook", a 1935 Jean Arthur feature, is the charming runner-up in this four film set. A very brief film, even for the age of double features, the film premiered as an 'A' at Christmas in 1935 and won good notices. A classic thirties Cinderella story, with Arthur as struggling shop girl, the film's delights are nicely divided between the irrepressibly attractive Arthur, and the rest of a small and fine cast. Herbert Marshall plays an automobile tycoon, who meets and his charmed by the lovely Jean while cooling his heels in the park following an argument with his board of directors. Intriqued by the penniless Arthur's determination to find a job, he keeps his own status a secret, and when she mistakes him for a fellow down and out, he goes along. The only possible job offering Arthur can find calls for a couple, a cook and butler, and when Marshall decides to tag along of course things go from there. The too often stolid Marshall plays with much of the liveliness of in his earlier delightful work in Lubitsch's "Trouble in Paradise" - one of the most stylish films ever made - Trouble in Paradise - Criterion Collection.
Stealing scenes are Leo Carrillo, a pig in clover as retired Italian gangster Mike Rossini, who now lives for gourmet food. His auditioning scene for aspiring applicants for the position of cook is as light as a souffle. Impressed with Arthur's gastronomic reserve with garlic, he immediately hires the 'couple' to be his new cook/maid and butler, and the two strangers suddenly find themselves shacked up together in a small servants quarters! Carrillo's sidekick, "Flash", a wonderfully cynical and down to earth Lionel Stander, is everything you could ask for in a character actor, and delivers his many great lines with absolute perfection. a wonderful part, superbly played! The romance between Arthur and Marshall's characters sputters here and there as the plot creaks it way along, but the film as a whole is quite charming. The wild ending certainly is terrific!
Jean Arthur fans should absolutely not miss an even better one of these somewhat lesser known Arthur films, this time with a superb script by Preston Sturges, "Easy Living". Easy Living (Universal Cinema Classics)
Having said nice things about these two films I'll recall that sage advice given to all youngsters about noting saying anything at all if you haven't anything nice to say and refrain from adding anything about the other two features. Suffice it to say you should buy this set for these two films!
Great set, transfers
jrc | Jonesboro, AR USA | 08/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As detailed in the previous review, a few gems here. Sony hasn't released anything that looks bad on DVD in some time now. This set is no exception, other than some minor print damage here and there--otherwise, these have been cleaned up nicely.
My favorite remains MY SISTER EILEEN(1942), with (spoiler!) The Three Stooges showing up at the end to add to the mayhem. A glorified cameo for sure, but it tops the movie off nicely. Not really a spoiler, though, since Amazon lists them among the cast.
Get this and Volume 2, released simultaneously."
Generally weak comedies but great prints
Douglas M | 01/17/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Columbia was one of the smallest of the major Hollywood studios in the 30s and 40s. With a relatively small contract list, it often attracted leading actresses on short term contracts, usually starring them in romantic comedies. Jean Arthur, an exceptional and highly individual comedienne, was one of the few star players on long term contract and Rosalind Russell was a freelance player by the time she made the films in this set. The 4 films in this package contains 2 films for each actress but by no means make up their best work with the exception of "My Sister Eileen" for Russell.
Released in 1935, the earliest film in the set is "If you could only Cook", a mild depression comedy romance between unemployed Arthur and slumming business magnate Herbert Marshall who meet on a park bench. They take a job as a cook and butler for retired gangster Leo Carillo and the inevitable romance evolves. Marshall is a mite less stiff and pompous than usual and Arthur not as relaxed as she became later when Frank Capra directed her in much more famous films but this one is a pleasant enough diversion.
"Too Many Husbands" from 1940 was based on a Somerset Maugham play. Arthur is married to Melvyn Douglas, the best friend of her first husband, Fred MacMurray who was thought drowned at sea a year before but returns to claim his wife. The film is a laboured talk fest as Arthur enjoys the attention of 2 males but cannot resolve which one to choose. The comedy is as juvenile as it is absurd and the film drags to a dumb and unconvincing conclusion.
"My Sister Eileen" was released in 1942 and is a much more animated comedy. Russell plays the "practical" sister of pretty Janet Blair. The home town girls move from Columbus Ohio into a basement flat in New York, trying to make their way in the city. The film races from one situation to the next. Russell was the mistress of the bemused put down and she has some great lines and never misses a laugh with her droll delivery. There is also a great supporting cast including Allan Joslyn as a lecherous reporter, hilarious George Tobias as their Italian landlord and painter and Elisabeth Patterson as their grandmother with a gleam in her eye as she encourages the girls to set out on their own. The film also has an hilarious surprise ending. When this script was turned into a musical on Broadway in the 50s as "Wonderful Town", Russell starred once again and became the toast of the town.
"She wouldn't say Yes" fits squarely into the genre which Russell cornered as an unmarried career woman who melted under the influence of a teasing leading man. She could play these parts blind folded by 1945 and if her playing is a touch mechanical, it is not really surprising. Lee Bowman plays her droll leading man. The film has some appallingly trite observations on psychiatry and the opening scene in a hospital for war wounded is offensive. Once the comedy takes off, there are some good isolated scenes and witty dialogue but the overall impression is that this is a very dated and mechanical comedy.
The good news is that the prints of all the films are excellent. There are few extras - a couple of trailers and a funny Columbia Short not unlike some of the better 3 Stooges films. There is also some marketing material for other Sony releases."
Little seen gems.
J. Olsen | UT, United States | 08/27/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had never seen any of these films before, but loving the two lead actresses in their other screwball roles made me purchase the set immediately. "If You Could Only Cook" was our family's choice for favorite. "Too Many Husbands" was similar in plot to "My Favorite Wife" and the remake "Move Over, Darling" but it never quite measured up, and the ending was very lame.The original "My Sister Eileen" was a good vehicle for Russell's brand of humor, but "She Wouldn't Say Yes" didn't hold up as well. The four star rating is an average for the 4 pictures together. I would definitely recommend this set to lovers of classic comedy."