Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Love on a Bet (1936)

I love many kinds of movies, from musicals to Westerns to pre-Codes to film noir and beyond, but the romantic comedies made between the mid '30s and mid '40s just might be my very favorite kind of film.

LOVE ON A BET is a fun mid-'30s RKO comedy which has many aspects which typify the genre: the poor but beautiful girl who considers marriage to a wealthy man as a way to survive the Depression...a cross-country road trip during which love blooms...and the presence of wonderful Helen Broderick as the girl's wisecracking aunt.

The girl is Paula Gilbert (Wendy Barrie), who first encounters Michael MacCreigh (Gene Raymond) when he's clad in nothing but his underwear.

Unbeknownst to Paula, Michael bet his uncle (William Collier Sr.), the owner of a meat packing business, that he can start out in New York with nothing but his underwear and wind up in Los Angeles a few days later dressed in a nice suit and in love with a beautiful girl. That's the plot of a play Michael wants his uncle to produce. If Michael wins the bet, his uncle produces the play; if Michael loses, he joins his uncle in the meat-packing business.

This movie has a very good screenplay by Philip G. Epstein (CASABLANCA) and P.J. Wolfson, based on a story by Kenneth Earl. The story is nothing unusual but the situations are enjoyable, with an engaging cast doing a pro job delivering the sharp dialogue. The viewer is glad to spend 77 minutes in the company of Raymond, Barrie, and Broderick as they road trip across the United States. They make motoring by convertible, complete with lap blankets and thermoses of coffee, seem very appealing!

Given the storyline of LOVE ON A BET, it's interesting to note that Raymond and Barrie would later reunite for a film titled CROSS-COUNTRY ROMANCE (1940).

The movie was directed by Leigh Jason and shot by Robert De Grasse. The supporting cast includes Eddie Gribbon, Morgan Wallace, Billy Gilbert, and Minerva Urecal.

The Warner Archive DVD looks terrific. The cue for a reel change was the only noticeable flaw in a lovely print.

This movie is also likely to turn up in the future on Turner Classic Movies.

LOVE ON A BET made Rupert Pupkin's list of underrated comedies last March: "A working class SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS-esque screwball road trip comedy with charm to spare."

As a side note, I'm also a big fan of WALKING ON AIR (1936), an RKO film with Raymond and Ann Sothern released the same year as LOVE ON A BET. That's one I would definitely snap up if it's released by Warner Archive.


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