Saturday, June 22, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Unexpected Uncle (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD review

UNEXPECTED UNCLE (1941) is a cute romantic comedy newly released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Like another new release, MAKE WAY FOR A LADY (1936), UNEXPECTED UNCLE stars Anne Shirley. Anne was a young leading lady of 23 in this one, rather than playing a teenager.

Seton Mansley (Charles Coburn) is walking down a Florida street when he spies salesgirl Kathleen (Shirley) crying through a shop window. Kathleen has just been fired for her reaction when she was pinched by store owner Johnny Kerrigan (James Craig).

Mansley wangles Kathleen's job back and she "adopts" him as her uncle. "Uncle Seton" supervises Kathleen's romance with the apologetic Johnny, trying to determine whether Johnny is proper husband material. At times Johnny's an irresponsible playboy; at other times he works such long hours he has no time for Kathleen. Can Johnny find the right path which will lead to married happiness with Kathleen?

With Charles Coburn as the wise matchmaker, anticipating his Oscar-winning role in THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943), the outcome isn't much in doubt -- but it's a quick, enjoyable 67-minute ride arriving at the film's conclusion. It's a pleasant hour-plus which I liked and would watch again.

Shirley is winning as earnest young Kathleen, and there are some nice supporting performances, particularly by Ernest Truex as Johnny's butler and Russell Gleason and Renee Godfrey (the director's wife) as Johnny's friends. Gleason, the son of actors James and Lucile Gleason, is quite funny as a nice but dimwitted young man who hopes to win Kathleen himself. Gleason tragically died in a 1945 accident while serving in the army.

UNEXPECTED UNCLE was directed by Peter Godfrey. Godfrey made some very enjoyable films including HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT (1942), CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945), and THE GIRL FROM JONES BEACH (1949).

The movie was shot in black and white by Robert deGrasse.

UNEXPECTED UNCLE was written by Delmer Daves and Noel Langley, from a novel by Eric Hatch. Daves would begin directing two years later with DESTINATION TOKYO (1943).

This RKO film has a good picture and sound. There are no extras on the Warner Archive DVD.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

This movie sounds adorable and just the antidote to any problems which may come our way.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw JAMES CRAIG in the movie KITTY FOYLE(1940) which starred GINGER ROGERS.(I remember I saw it on a local PBS station.) James was good in his role as a doctor named Mark who was dating Kitty. He was a likable presence. GINGER won the ACADEMY AWARD for that movie. He also worked with LUCILLE BALL in THE VALLEY OF THE SUN(1942). Classic TV Fan

6:33 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yes, it's a very nice light diversion which provides smiles. :) I especially enjoyed the interplay of Shirley and Coburn, they're very cute together.

Best wishes,

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ANNE SHIRLEY was married to JOHN PAYNE for five years(1938-43). Their daughter JULIE PAYNE died earlier this month(JUNE 7, 2019) at the age of 78. According to Wiki and imdb her acting career lasted 8 years(1959-67). She had 12 acting credits. Classic TV Fan

8:35 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Happy that someone has some love for James Craig other than me than me. The Human Comedy was, in my view, his best picture and performance, but he was effective throughout his long career. Re Kitty Foyle; to evaluate the film story, which I thought quite good, the novel needs to be read, which makes the film disturbing, especially Craig's character, which as originally written should have been played by someone like Martin Balsam. Makes a difference.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Classic TV Fan, I was unaware of Julie Payne's recent passing, thank you for letting us know.

Barrylane, I like James Craig as well! I didn't mention him much here but that's more due to his character being kind of a pill for much of the movie LOL. I really enjoy the sensitive work he did with several child actors in various films for MGM, and I especially share your love for THE HUMAN COMEDY, a fine film which deserves more recognition.

Later in Craig's career I found him quite interesting in low-budget Westerns such as MAN OR GUN (1958) or FOUR FAST GUNS (1960). I see comments every now and then deriding him as a Gable wannabe or somesuch (John Carroll who was at MGM while Gable served in the war gets the same comments) but I find him a congenial actor in his own right who matured into someone who could portray fascinating darker, world-weary shades. He was in a number of Westerns but I wish he'd made even more.

Best wishes,

12:20 PM  
Blogger Brittaney said...

I had the chance to watch this recently and found myself absolutely charmed. Of course, I'm always willing to take a chance on a Charles Coburn film, but its' nice when the rest of the cast balances out his good natured shenanigans.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Brittaney, thank you for adding your thoughts on this film. I'm delighted to know you also found it enjoyable. A nice way to pass an hour or so. :)

Best wishes,

1:56 PM  

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