Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Hired Wife (1940)

HIRED WIFE is an especially good romantic comedy, with a terrific cast and a witty script.

Rosalind Russell is at her very best as Kendal Browning, the devoted assistant to cement tycoon Stephen Dexter (Brian Aherne). Kendal's in love with Stephen, but he appreciates Kendal strictly from a business perspective. Stephen is smitten with a blonde model, Phyllis (Virginia Bruce).

However, when a complicated business situation dictates that Stephen immediately marry someone completely trustworthy, he turns to Kendal, not Phyllis. It's simply a temporary marriage of convenience, but Kendal hopes it will become more...especially when she provides funds for her charming but broke friend Jose (John Carroll) to court Phyllis.

This fast-paced film has excellent dialogue and an amusing plot which zigs and zags in unexpected directions, providing a most enjoyable 95 minutes of entertainment. In addition to the four lead actors, Robert Benchley is on hand as Stephen's attorney and chaperone; his reactions when he thinks Stephen has blown his chance for an annulment are particularly funny. (It's worth noting how a film of the Production Code era could subtly yet clearly convey certain subject matter.)

Carroll seemed to specialize in hokey, put-on accents; I don't think the jovial South American Jose sounds all that different from Carroll's jovial French-Canadian character, PIERRE OF THE PLAINS (1942).

It's interesting to note that the four lead actors were more frequently associated with MGM or Columbia around the time HIRED WIFE was made, yet this is a Universal film. Russell and Aherne were later reteamed in the Columbia movies MY SISTER EILEEN (1942) and WHAT A WOMAN (1943).

The movie was directed by William A. Seiter. The screenplay by Richard Connell and Gladys Lehman was based on a story by George Beck. The black and white cinematography was by Milton Krasner.

The supporting cast includes Hobart Cavanaugh, Leonard Carey, Richard Lane, William B. Davidson, Chester Clute, and Selmer Jackson.

Like many Universal films of the '30s and '40s, HIRED WIFE hasn't had a DVD or VHS release. Unless TCM has licensed it at some point in the past, I suspect it hasn't aired on TV since it was shown on American Movie Classics back in the days when it was commercial free and regularly showed Universal movies.

Rosalind Russell films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: FORSAKING ALL OTHERS (1934), WEST POINT OF THE AIR (1935), TROUBLE FOR TWO (1936), LIVE, LOVE AND LEARN (1937), FOUR'S A CROWD (1938), MAN-PROOF (1938), THE WOMEN (1939), FAST AND LOOSE (1939), NO TIME FOR COMEDY (1940), THE FEMININE TOUCH (1941), DESIGN FOR SCANDAL (1941), TAKE A LETTER, DARLING (1942), WHAT A WOMAN (1943), SHE WOULDN'T SAY YES (1945), TELL IT TO THE JUDGE (1949), and A WOMAN OF DISTINCTION (1950).


Blogger barrylane said...

Unless I am mistaken, Aherne and Russell were together in My Sister Eileen.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barry, you're 100% correct, it completely slipped my mind. I'm going to amend my post and add that, as it's such a significant title. Thank you!

Best wishes,

8:17 AM  

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