Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Maid's Night Out (1938)

MAID'S NIGHT OUT is an agreeable little screwball comedy starring the young Joan Fontaine and Allan "Rocky" Lane.

Lane plays Bill Norman, the heir to the Arlen Dairy business, who would prefer to spend his time studying fish. Bill ends up agreeing to work for his father (George Irving) as a milkman for a month and meets Sheila (Fontaine) at one of the houses on his route; he thinks she's the maid, but she's actually an impoverished debutante being courted by the annoying-but-rich Wally (William Brisbane).

This is a cute, fast-paced little movie with congenial leads, a good supporting cast, and pleasant-looking Southern California locations. (I'd love to know the neighborhoods where the movie was shot.) The good supporting cast includes Cecil Kellaway as the Norman family butler, Hedda Hopper as Sheila's mother, and Billy Gilbert as an excitable fishmonger.

Watch carefully to spot Jack Carson as a roller coaster attendant! A very young Frances Gifford is the ticket seller at the octopus exhibit. Lee Patrick makes the most of her brief screen time as an exuberant customer who loves kissing milkmen.

Vicki Lester is charming in a couple of scenes as Bill's cousin Adele. I know nothing about her and, given that her short-lived film career began in 1937, I wonder if she adopted the name of the heroine in the same year's A STAR IS BORN.

Other familiar faces in the cast include Edward Gargan, Paul Guilfoyle, Richard Lane, and I. Stanford Jolley. The movie was directed by Ben Holmes.

The movie gets a bit too silly in the final minutes, as Bill and Sheila are chased by the police, but on the whole MAID'S NIGHT OUT is a great example of the RKO "B" movie, providing an enjoyable 64 minutes.

A bit of oddball movie trivia: This is the second film seen by me this week featuring an ichthyologist for a leading man! Don Taylor was also obsessed with fish in 1948's FOR THE LOVE OF MARY.

MAID'S NIGHT OUT had a release on VHS in the excellent RKO Collection series, as part of a double feature video with Lucille Ball's ANNABEL TAKES A TOUR (1938).

It was also recently shown on Turner Classic Movies.


Blogger Judy said...

Laura, according to the FAQ on 'A Star Is Born' at the imdb, the actress did indeed adopt the name from the movie - it says she was also billed as Vickie Lester. No mention as to what her real name was, though! I haven't seen this movie but you make it sound enjoyable and I do like both Joan Fontaine and Lee Patrick.

Funny how often it seems that films seen within a few days have unexpected links, as with your ichthylogist. Also on a fishy note, I remember seeing 'Man's Favorite Sport' and 'Libeled Lady' within a couple of days and being surprised to discover that both featured characters pretending to be expert fishermen (Rock Hudson and William Powell respectively!)

12:30 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Sounds cute. I can see an ichthyologist movie blogathon coming up any day now.

4:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Judy, thanks for contributing that additional info! Sounds like the mysterious Vicki Lester might be a good research project. :)

The unexpected links are fun! (A few weeks ago my dad told me that the father of a long-ago family friend had worked as a fishing expert on MAN'S FAVORITE SPORT!)

Jacqueline, I think an ichthyologist blogathon is a must! LOL. Wonder if there are more such films out there?

Best wishes,

9:14 AM  
Blogger grandoldmovies said...

RE: Ichthyology - the 1934 version of IMITATION OF LIFE features Warren William as Claudette Colbert's leading man. His film occupation? (hint: it has to do with studying fish...)

We may be on to a trend here...

12:01 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's hilarious re IMITATION OF LIFE -- I've got that DVD, now I need to see it! :)

Wonder if there are more...?!

Best wishes,

4:49 PM  

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