Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tonight's Movie: It's Love Again (1936)

My viewing of the last few days has been nothing if not eclectic: a "B" movie, a spooky thriller, a romantic comedy, a film noir, a recent release, and now a very enjoyable mid-'30s British musical comedy, IT'S LOVE AGAIN, starring one of Britain's biggest stars, Jessie Matthews.

London society columnist Peter Carlton (Robert Young), hard up for a story, invents a mysterious woman, Mrs. Smythe-Smythe, and fills his column with fascinating stories about her exploits.

No one is more surprised than Peter when Mrs. Smythe-Smythe turns up in public, impersonated by aspiring musical star Elaine Bradford (Matthews). Elaine hopes to use the publicity received as Mrs. Smythe-Smythe to eventually land a job when her true identity is inevitably disclosed, and since Peter is charmed by Elaine, he's all for the idea.

The plot, with someone stepping into the shoes of a made-up character, is a bit reminiscent of the much later U.S. TV series REMINGTON STEELE. This is an entertaining movie very much in the style of American romantic comedies of the era, with a bit of British flair. It has an appealing cast, solid songs and musical numbers, good production values, and some witty dialogue.

One song and dance number set in a park, which starts with Matthews singing and ends with her backed by a full chorus, seems as though perhaps it might have inspired "That's How You Know" in Disney's ENCHANTED (2007) decades later.

Years ago I enjoyed reading a remaindered copy of Jessie Matthews' autobiography, OVER MY SHOULDER, but this was the first of her movies I'd actually seen. She's quite good, with a sweet personality, pleasant singing voice, smooth dance moves, and a flair for comedy. I'm looking forward to catching up with more of her movies. It's really rather wonderful that no matter how many hundreds of movies one sees, there always seem to be corners of classic cinema left to explore.

IT'S LOVE AGAIN was one of two films Robert Young made in England which were released in 1936; the other title Alfred Hitchcock's SECRET AGENT (1936). He's charming as the reporter who quickly falls head over heels for Elaine. As with Fred MacMurray, I've gained a much greater appreciation for Young the more I've seen of his work from the '30s and '40s. There was so much more to his career than his well-known TV roles.

Young's sidekick, Freddy, is played by Sonnie Hale, who was Matthews' husband at the time. Matthews' father-in-law, Robert Hale, plays Colonel Edgerton; he and Matthews share a scene that's laugh-out-loud funny. The cast also includes Ernest Milton, Sara Allgood, and Cyril Wells, who serves as Matthews' dance partner in a couple of scenes.

The movie was directed by Victor Saville, who nearly a decade later would direct one of my favorite Rita Hayworth musicals, the London-set TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945). The running time of this black and white film is 83 minutes.

IT'S LOVE AGAIN has been released in the U.S. on VHS. The print I watched was quite good, if a bit soft in spots. It hasn't had a U.S. DVD release, nor does it appear to have been released on a Region 2 DVD in the UK, which surprises me. 2014 Update: This movie is now available on DVD from VCI.

Netflix doesn't have this title available for streaming, but the company does stream other Matthews titles, including EVERGREEN (1934) and SAILING ALONG (1938), so perhaps it will turn up there in the future.


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