Thursday 26 July 2007

Merry Wives of Reno (1934) H Bruce Humberstone

We open with Frank and Madge, a happy couple celebrating their first wedding anniversary. They're in the same bed, proving that we're in the precodes, and they're giving each other expensive coats as presents. Meanwhile next door, Tom and Lois are bickering. He's complaining about the cost of her coat and she's reading over his insurance policy. She's pointing out that he's able to commit suicide and he's asking her if she'll accept a divorce for $75 a week alimony. 'I've got to live too,' says Tom. 'Why?' says Lois.

You can tell from that and the title that this is hardly a serious film. Quickly we find more connections: Tom is cheating on his wife with young Bunny Fitch, who is trying to seduce Frank. Tom manages to chase Frank out of the window but then the real husband chases Tom out too. The real husband, Colonel Fitch is a forgetful sheep fancier who buys a ranch outside Reno and you can imagine much of the rest from there. Needless to say everything that could possibly escalate, escalates, and everyone ends up in Reno, including Eloise the sheep. Yes, it's a film like that.

The cast is superb and regardless how frivolous the material they're given, it's impossible not to be amused at the very least and nigh on impossible not to laugh out loud on a number of occasions. It's hardly high humour but it's hilarious. Frank and Madge are Donald Woods and Margaret Lindsay, both perfect pictures of innocence, even when he's lying through his teeth. Tom and Lois are a drunken king of liars Guy Kibbee and queen bitch Ruth Donnelly, who always reminds me of a transvestite who should be in a Marx Brothers movie. Kibbee has the lead, which in itself means that the movie is going to be both silly and fun, and he doesn't disappoint in the slightest.

Bunny and the Colonel are Glenda Farrell, doing her best Ginger Rogers meets Mae West impression, and Hugh Herbert, who is blissfully on a completely different planet to everyone else in the film. Add to that people like Frank McHugh as the hotel jack of all trades and master of all schemes, star stutterer Roscoe Ates and even uncredited talent like Louise Beavers and Hattie McDaniel, and you just can't go wrong. In fact the cast are obviously having such a great time that sometimes they end up unable to hide their own laughter. When that happens, you know the script is a peach.

No, this isn't the greatest film ever made, but I have a feeling it's going to become a favourite. I'm still laughing and it finished ten minutes ago. 'A mouse made me do it!'

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