Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Gay Deception (1935)

THE GAY DECEPTION (1935), a charming romantic comedy directed by the great William Wyler, has just jumped onto my list of favorite film discoveries of 2018.

Frances Dee is wonderful as Mirabel, a secretary who wins $5000 in a sweepstakes drawing. She quits her dreary job but is dejected when a banker tells her that investing the money will only provide an income of $3 a week -- $15 less than she was making as a secretary!

Mirabel decides that she will instead spend the money, and for a time, however briefly, she'll have all the things she's ever wanted. She travels to New York City, where she books a suite at the Waldorf. The Waldorf staff decide she's a melon heiress and afford her every courtesy, which leaves her slightly bewildered but happy.

In short order Mirabel meets Sandro (Francis Lederer), Bellboy No. 14, who's both amusing and annoying. In between constantly being fired and rehired by the Waldorf for his un-employee-like behavior, Sandro advises Mirabel on her hats, what to order for dinner, and more.

Other than her growing friendship with Sandro, Mirabel is rather lonely not knowing anyone in New York and spends her evenings at the movies. After a disastrous dinner out with Sandro, when he unexpectedly disappears due to circumstances beyond his control, she decides to go home.

Mirabel changes her mind and decides to delay her return home by a day when snooty Miss Channing (Benita Hume) invites Mirabel to a charity ball. Mirabel is crushed, though, when she realizes she's just been sold tickets to the ball but is not invited to sit at the head table with Miss Channing and her date, Lord Clewe (Alan Mowbray).

Sandro finds Mirabel crying over tea that Miss Channing didn't bother to stay and drink with her, and when she says she'd like to go to the ball with a king and put Miss Channing in her place, Sandro asks if she'd settle for a prince...and sets about organizing a magical evening where Mirabel finds herself, in essence, to be Cinderella at the ball. Little does Mirabel know that more surprises are in store.

Wyatt McCrea has told me this was one of his grandmother Frances Dee's favorite films, and I can certainly see why; I'm just amazed it took me this long to discover it! The movie is a lighter-than-air fairy tale which has a touch of Wyler's previous film, THE GOOD FAIRY (1935), mixed with a bit of THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS (1936), which like THE GAY DECEPTION was cowritten by Don Hartman. Throw in a little of THIRTY DAY PRINCESS (1934) and that's the feel of THE GAY DECEPTION, which at the same time has its own unique flavor, thanks to the lead performances of Dee and Lederer.

Dee is always a charming actress, and this certainly ranks among her best performances, with myriad emotions running across her face, no dialogue required. That said, her line deliveries are marvelous, right to the very last line. Her expressions when she enters the ball with Sandro are utterly hilarious.

Francis Lederer is an actor I've found a bit wooden in previous films, but he's delightful here, energetic and animated. It's interesting to note that in real life Lederer, like Dee and her husband Joel McCrea, had significant Southern California real estate holdings, including a home in Canoga Park (now West Hills) which was later named an historic monument. A fun bit of trivia is that actor Don Collier, who played ranch foreman Sam Butler on TV's THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, got his start as one of Lederer's ranch hands before his employer convinced him to turn to acting. Lederer passed away in 2000 at the age of 100.

THE GAY DECEPTION was filmed by Joseph Valentine. The supporting cast includes Akim Tamiroff, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Luis Alberni, Lionel Stander, and Robert Greig. It runs 77 perfectly paced minutes.

THE GAY DECEPTION is available on DVD from Fox Cinema Archives. The print has a National Telefilm Associates logo after the usual Fox opening. It's a soft but good print; the soundtrack at times is a bit muffled, which can make understanding Lederer's accent a challenge, but for the most part it's acceptable. I did have to turn the volume way up and replay the last minute to understand Lederer's final line!

It can be rented for streaming from Amazon Instant Video.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

This film sounds charming, Laura! Starring appearances by the lovely Frances Dee are all too rare so this would be a relatively rare opportunity to appreciate her.

I was very interested by your anecdote about Don Collier, an actor I first discovered (and very much appreciated) in his starring role in the underrated but fine western TV series,"OUTLAWS". That series really deserves a restoration and release on disc. That series was from 1960-62 and ran 50 hour-long episodes!
Don will turn 90 in October.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry! I've never seen OUTLAWS, thank you so much for sharing all that great info on Don Collier. :)

I hope you have a chance to see this, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Best wishes,

4:19 PM  
Blogger Brittaney said...

I've never heard of this film. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. Every since I saw Lederer in Romance in Manhattan with Ginger Rogers, I've been seeking out his other films.

8:00 AM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Hi, Laura! I'm so pleased you've discovered this delightful film. It really showcases Dee's comic and dramatic talents. She's brilliant in the scene where Mirabel takes tea by herself after being snubbed by the society women. I always choke up when I watch that poignant scene - and so does Wyatt! Frances and Francis remained life long friends. I recently came across an article about the 1985 American Cinema Award given to Lederer. Frances, Joel and sons attended the award ceremony. Clips were shown of Frances and Francis, 50 years younger, in THE GAY DECEPTION . What a lovely moment that must have been! Take care, Jane

12:28 PM  

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