Sunday, March 08, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Bachelor's Affairs (1932) at the UCLA Festival of Preservation

BACHELOR'S AFFAIRS (1932), seen today as part of a pre-Code double bill at the UCLA Festival of Preservation, was a real find, one of my favorite films of the year to date. I thought it was hilariously funny, a sparkling gem of a comedy, with a great cast making the most of an excellent script.

This fast-paced film, running just 64 minutes, was based on a short-lived James Forbes play called PRECIOUS. Its theatrical origins occasionally peek through, but it doesn't matter, as it's so well written and performed.

Adolphe Menjou plays Andrew Hoyt, a wealthy businessman who is a 40-ish bachelor -- and an easy mark for gorgeous Eva (Joan Marsh), whose sister (Minna Gombell) promotes a marriage between Andrew and Eva to repair the sisters' empty bank account.

Andrew marries Eva, to the consternation of his business colleague and best friend Luke (Alan Dinehart), his valet Jepson (Herbert Mundin), and his loyal secretary Jane (Irene Purcell of THE MAN IN POSSESSION), who has long loved Andrew from the sidelines.

Andrew soon discovers that marriage to the beautiful but brainless Eva isn't quite what he hoped, as the young and energetic Eva wears him out with her constant wishes to go dancing, bicycling, swimming, and more. But how to "unload" Eva and resume a more tranquil life, especially with her sister so invested in keeping the money flowing? That's where Luke comes in, with his constant refrain of "Leave everything to me!" Luke's first plan is to throw Eva together with young architect Oliver (Arthur Pierson).

It's hard to describe just how amusing this film is. What could potentially be a distasteful plot is handled with effervescent good cheer, with great dialogue and funny bits of physical comedy. Dinehart has never been better as he plots to do his friend a favor by breaking up his marriage; he's simply wonderful.

He's matched by a delightful performance by Joan Marsh as the dim-witted Eva, also known as "Precious" and "Angel." She looks like Jean Harlow, yet she's marvelously empty-headed; at the same time, she has a goofy sweetness which makes the viewer hope she ends up happy, with her sister banished back to Ypsilanti. I've only seen a couple of Marsh's films and will be watching for her in the future.

Menjou has one of the best scenes, as he chomps on an apple while reading in bed; he then eavesdrops on a phone call and learns his wife and Oliver are in jail, picked up for "parking." He initially starts to get up and get dressed, then realizes it's a bit of good fortune and resumes reading and eating, chuckling as he does. Menjou is also a stitch when he's learning to rumba!

Incidentally, Menjou always looked so old for his age, I was surprised when I looked it up and realized he really was in his early 40s when he made this film.

Ward Bond pops up playing a cop in a funny scene. Dennis O'Keefe and Bill Elliott were said to have bit parts, but I didn't pick them out of the crowds.

BACHELOR'S AFFAIRS was directed by Alfred L. Werker and filmed by Norbert Brodine.

Leonard Maltin saw BACHELOR'S AFFAIRS at last year's Cinefest in New York and called it a "comedy gem" which was the "audience favorite" at the festival. He further wrote "There’s just one word to describe it: hilarious."

Another blogger who attended Cinefest called it "a film worth seeing!"

We can only hope that this delightful film will one day be on DVD so that a wider audience can enjoy it. In the meantime, don't miss out on the chance to see this one if it turns up at a local festival.

I'll be reviewing the other film on today's double bill, SOCIETY GIRL (1932), in the near future.

Update: Here is my review of SOCIETY GIRL.


Blogger Kristina said...

Sounds great! Discoveries like these are the best, the ones most people never heard of but where everything just works. Also interesting to see such a well done pre-Code comedy from the director of He Walked by Night and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes!

6:22 AM  

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