Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Repost: Tonight's Movie: If You Could Only Cook (1935)

NOTE: Last weekend I recommended the comedy IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK, which aired yesterday on TCM. With the movie on my mind, I pulled it off the shelf to watch again tonight. What a treat!  I watched most of the movie with a smile on my face.  I was amazed to realize that it was five years ago this week when I saw it for the first time. Below is my original review of December 2, 2007, augmented with additional images.

IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK was a delightful treat, an example of '30s romantic comedy at its best.

It's the Depression, of course, and jobs are hard to come by. Joan (Jean Arthur) is scanning the want ads on a park bench when a rather dejected man, Jim (Herbert Marshall), sits down next to her. She assumes that, like her, he is badly in need of a job, and suggests that they answer an ad together for a husband and wife to act as butler and cook. He accepts, and before you know it they're working for a somewhat shady character (Leo Carrillo) who has a gourmet appetite and a nosy righthand man (Lionel Stander).

In truth, Jim is a millionaire who was down in the dumps about both his career and his engagement to a bossy woman from a "good family" (Frieda Inescort, who played Caroline Bingley in the Olivier-Garson PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). Meeting pretty, talented Joan has added some needed sparkle to Jim's life, and this being a '30s romantic comedy, you can probably figure out how things end up.

Within the framework of a standard Depression-era comedy about the rich and the hired help, the film felt fresh and original. The Leo Carrillo character, in particular, was fun and unpredictable. One wouldn't necessarily think of Marshall as the leading man in a comedy, but he was wonderful and had excellent chemistry with Arthur. The last couple scenes had me laughing out loud.

The film is 72 minutes long. I'm generally a fan of short, fast-paced movies but I actually wished this film were a bit longer to further develop the Marshall-Arthur relationship.

The movie was directed by William A. Seiter.

IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK is not available on DVD or video. It can be seen on TCM. Click here to indicate interest in a DVD release or to request that TCM schedule the movie.

This film is definitely worth watching for.

August 2009 Update: IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK is now available on DVD in the Icons of Screwball Comedy Volume I.

February 2014 Update: IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK can also be obtained via a "manufactured on demand" DVD from Sony Choice.


Blogger dfordoom said...

It's a truly delightful little movie, an underrated screwball gem.

1:09 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Delightful film. Arthur good in anything, but so nice when cast is assembled that just clicks.

3:10 AM  
Blogger Stephen Reginald said...

Love this movie. Arthur and Marshall were good together, which on the face of it, shouldn't be the case, as you noted. Casting is 90% of any movie and the casting for this one is perfect.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Melissa Clark said...

I really like this movie! It's a lot of fun. You can hardly go wrong with a 1930s comedy in which a wealthy person takes on the role of a servant, like this one, "My Man Godfrey," and "Merrily We Live." :-)

9:15 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I adored this movie. I have it taped off of TCM on VHS somewhere. I remember a scene in which Jean Arthur is holding a piece of garlic over a sauce instead of putting the garlic in the sauce and I believe if my memory serves me right that that is the reason she gets the job. Ha! Very funny. I really love old movies in which cooking or food is in some way part of the story. I need to watch this one again! Thanks for reposting your review.

11:48 AM  

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