Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Call It a Day (1937)

Yesterday was the birthday of Bonita Granville, who was born in Chicago in 1923.

In Bonita's honor I pulled out CALL IT A DAY (1937), a film I've never seen before in which she played a supporting role.

CALL IT A DAY is a somewhat unusual film for the often hard-edged Warner Bros., a London-set family comedy based on a play by Dodie Smith (I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, THE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS). 

Ian Hunter and Frieda Inescort star as Roger and Dorothy Hilton, who have been married for 22 years and have three teenaged children: Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), Martin (Peter Willes), and Ann (Granville).

The episodic film follows the adventures of various family members one fine spring day, as Dorothy is unexpectedly wooed by the brother (Roland Young) of a friend (Alice Brady), while accountant Roger has an awkward, very tame flirtation with an actress (Marcia Ralston), but flees home when he thinks she wants to take things further.

Catherine spends most of the day crying over her unrequited love for a married artist (Walter Woolf King), and Martin finds romance with next-door neighbor Joan (Anita Louise).  By the end of an adventurous day, filled with thoughts of love and romance, everyone is back home and life settles down once more into its pleasant rhythms.

CALL IT A DAY is only a so-so film, as both the direction of Archie Mayo and Casey Robinson's screenplay could have been less frenetic, yet simultaneously the movie needed a little more "oomph" to make it more interesting.  

That said, I found it a pleasant enough 90 minutes thanks to the fine cast. Though Hunter sometimes played leads, notably in melodramas opposite Kay Francis, and Inescort had a particularly good costarring role in BEAUTY FOR THE ASKING (1939), it was a treat to see them front and center, paired as a loving husband and wife.  

Inescort may have been half a dozen names down in the cast, but it was really her movie, and I quite enjoyed her as the mother who is shocked and flattered to have another man propose marriage.  (It's a long story...)  Inescort was only a dozen years older than her movie son and 15 years older than de Havilland, but with a little gray added to her hair she's believable as their mother.

Aside from her performance, it was fun to muse on what it would have been like to have a cook, housekeeper, and maid, leaving the lady of the house with plenty of time to go to the theatre for a matinee!

The film's other scene stealer is Granville as the exuberant youngest daughter.  de Havilland's part, which requires her to spend copious amounts of time acting silly and crying, doesn't amount to much, and while Anita Louise looks absolutely lovely, there's not a great deal to her role either.  

Despite underwritten characters, the overall effect of the film is positive, even if it's not quite what it might have been.  I liked the cast and found them enjoyable company.

The movie is notable for the film debut of a favorite character actress, Mary Field, who racked up scores of film and TV credits over the next couple decades.  Here Field plays Hunter's secretary.  Some of her other notable roles included OUT OF THE PAST (1947), where she's the proprietress of Marny's Diner; MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), where she's the adoptive mother of the little Dutch girl who visits Kris Kringle; and FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER (1954), where she's a feisty dressmaker in a frontier town.  Most recently I've seen her in WAKE ISLAND (1942), in a single scene as the governess for the widowed Brian Donlevy's young daughter.

CALL IT A DAY was filmed in black and white by Ernest Haller. The supporting cast includes Una O'Connor, Peggy Wood, Beryl Mercer, and Elsa Buchanan.

The movie is available in a very nice print on a Warner Archive DVD, initially released in 2009, the Archive's first year of operation.


Blogger Vienna said...

I like to catch up on Freida Inescourt’s films, especially ones like this where she is nice ,not nasty!
Hollywood had a rich pool of British actors to call on .

2:41 AM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

Bonita Granville was adorable as Nancy Drew but I haven't seen her in anything else.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I remember thinking this movie was "cute enough" but just didn't have the necessary zip. I have started to watch it a couple of more times because the title has never stuck with me!

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Bert Greene said...

Always love and enjoy spotting Mary Field in old films. My favorite bit with her is as the clerk at the ladies clothing store in "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid" (1948). Her reaction to William Powell is priceless, when he comes into the store looking for a 'top' piece of swimsuit clothing (for mermaid Blythe), but says he has no need of a 'bottom' piece. Best and funniest part of the otherwise so-so movie. Mary Field, an always-reliable bit-part player who helps perk up many a film.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm always very happy to hear from another Mary Field fan, Bert! I've come to appreciate her so much -- she really brings a lot to her roles. I haven't yet seen MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID but I do have a copy, so I'll keep Field's appearance in mind. Sounds fun!

Best wishes,

7:31 PM  

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