Goddard plays Toni Gerrard, a down-on-her-luck Texan in the big city of New York. She gets a room with a kindly fortune teller, Madame Zenobia (Gladys George), and lands a job at a shooting gallery run by Pop (Cecil Kellaway).
Toni spots lawyer Brad Cavanaugh (Milland) and falls for him head over heels, then impersonates Madame Zenobia at various times in order to distract Brad's interest from his wealthy client, Jo Ainsley (Virginia Field), and land Brad herself. It's all a bit complicated to explain concisely, but the story makes sense on film...or at least it makes as much sense as a screwball comedy ever makes!
There are numerous funny situations, including a series of unfortunate incidents with a waiter (Sig Arno); there's also a nice comedic payoff for a set of meetings at an apartment where Toni pretends to live. The reactions of a dog-walking lady in the apartment building, played by Mabel Paige, are quite amusing.
Milland and Goddard are charming together; I especially love a scene where they're dancing and falling in love. Milland is flat-out adorable in this, with wonderful comic reactions, and Goddard is pretty terrific herself. She comes across as a funny, good-natured gal who also happens to be beautiful. Everyone seems to be having a good time in the movie, even the hapless waiter.
Milland and Goddard were also teamed in THE LADY HAS PLANS (1942), REAP THE WILD WIND (1942), and KITTY (1945). Anyone who likes Milland and/or Goddard should have a fun time with THE CRYSTAL BALL.
The supporting cast includes William Bendix as Milland's butler/chauffeur; in a nice touch, the back story is that he was a bowling alley owner who put Milland through law school. Mary Field, a perennial movie maid, is once again a maid here, and she's in cahoots with Madame Zenobia. Fay Helm does a nice job as Milland's perenially amused secretary.
THE CRYSTAL BALL runs 81 minutes. It was directed by Elliott Nugent. The black and white cinematography was by Leo Tover. Gowns were designed by two fashion greats, Edith Head and Adrian.
This is a Paramount film which was distributed by United Artists due to Paramount having too much product during WWII. It's not available on DVD or VHS, but it was recently shown by Turner Classic Movies. Hopefully there will be a DVD release in the future!