Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Perfect Snob (1941)

Having last week watched Cornel Wilde in the Technicolor fantasy A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS (1945) and seen Anthony Quinn in another Technicolor tale, SINBAD THE SAILOR (1947), I watched them costarring together in a cute little 20th Century-Fox "B" movie, THE PERFECT SNOB (1941).

Lynn Bari plays the title role, starring as Chris Mason, the daughter of a kindly, henpecked veterinarian, Dr. Edgar Mason (Charlie Ruggles). Dr. Mason's wife Martha (Charlotte Greenwood) habitually steamrolls her husband in the pursuit of the "good things in life" for their daughter, including whisking Chris off to Honolulu the day she graduates from college.

Martha wants Chris to marry money, and when Dr. Mason hears from a reporter that Chris is serious about a wealthy bachelor, Dr. Mason decides enough is enough and follows his wife and daughter to Hawaii. He discovers the bachelor (Alan Mowbray) is a stuffed shirt old enough to be Chris's father. Dr. Mason happens upon Mike (Wilde), a handsome young man fishing at the beach, and hires him to break up Chris and her moneybags Romeo.

Mike is only too happy to sabotage Chris's new engagement, as he'd like to romance her himself. What Chris doesn't know is that Mike is extremely wealthy. Meanwhile, Mike's best friend Alexander (Quinn) is interested in Chris too...and Chris knows Alex has money.

This is a fast-moving, entertaining hour plus three minutes, directed by Ray McCarey, brother of Leo. Its only real flaw, as "B" movies go, is that -- other than a scene interacting with some puppies -- it's hard to see what Mike and Alex see in snooty, greedy Chris. Sure, she's attractive, but she doesn't have a very engaging personality, which is too bad as Bari is such a fun actress to watch. Her character comes off more like the "other woman" Bari played in that year's SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941) than as a leading lady.

If you put that plot deficiency aside, along with Greenwood playing a character you want to smack several times in the first few minutes of the movie, THE PERFECT SNOB is good fun. Those who like a lighthearted hour in black and white with a cast of pros could do far worse than this quick-moving film.

Wilde and Quinn have a nice camaraderie, with Wilde good-naturedly blackmailing Quinn by reminding him he wrote his papers so he'd graduate college. Some great trivia: I just learned in the last few days that Cornel Wilde was on the 1936 U.S. Olympic fencing team, though he quit before going to the Berlin Olympics in order to take an acting role.

Ruggles is good as the veterinarian who finally decides to put his foot down over his wife's shenanigans, and Mowbray plays a ridiculously silly man like only Mowbray can.

Charles G. Clarke filmed the movie in black and white.

THE PERFECT SNOB is available in a fine-looking DVD from the Fox Cinema Archives. It can be rented from ClassicFlix.

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