Sunday, January 4, 2009

Theodora Goes Wild (1936)

I watched this a few days ago on TCM and my first question was, "Why the heck isn't this on DVD yet?" This is a delightful comedy that deserves a DVD release people!

Lynnfield, a typical small town, is in a fury over the latest best-selling novel that is being printed in excerpts in their local paper. The prudes of the town deem it too racy and therefore morally objectionable. Little do they know, one of their own, Theodora Lynn (Irene Dunne) is actually the author. Theodora has gone to great lengths to keep the author's (her) identity a secret, but during a meeting with her publisher she meets Michael Grant (Melvyn Douglas) and lets her guard down. From that point on, he is determined to free her from small town life by forcing her to admit her true identity. Meanwhile, Theodora finds out some secrets of her own about Michael and sets a plan in motion to give him a taste of his own medicine.

That looks painful

I am a fan of Irene Dunne's already so it came as no surprise that she was absolutely wonderful in the role of Theodora. In fact, she was even nominated for an Oscar for her performance. She is such a great comedic actress and this movie is one of the first to show off her talents in that area.

So the surprise, for me, was Melvyn Douglas whom I knew very little about. I believe I had only seen him in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" up to this point. He was good in that, but not a standout necessarily. In this one though, he and Irene had a great chemistry and I loved how he tormented her in such a charming way. I read a review online about how his whistling in the film was annoying, but honestly, I didn't find that to be the case. His whistling, to me, was just a constant dig at her, trying to ruffle Theodora so that she would ... take action. I love the kind of comedy that comes from two people battling against each other, almost always, because they have fallen for each other and don't want to give in. This film does a terrific job with that situation.

As for the story, I love how subversive it is to the culture at the time. It takes aim at small town America which had been so revered as being perfect. It chips away at the facade showing the hypocritical and judgemental nature of the population, but in a comedic way so as not to totally offend a primary demographic. Very clever, them big town writers. :-)

One of my favorite quotes, and I can't recall which small town supporting character said it, was about Theodora. They said, "It's all perfectly clear to me. That adorable young thing is an unholy terror on wheels. There's nothing in the world more deadly than innocence on the manhunt!"

If you haven't guessed yet, I highly recommend this great little screwball comedy gem and I demand a DVD release. Anyone listening people? More Cowbell!


kda0121 said...

Theodora is a wonderful movie. It really introduced Irene Dunne to comedy and Melvyn Douglas was already an old pro at it. They make a great team in a terrific screwball.

AbbyNormal said...

Karl - why isn't this on DVD?!?!?! :-)

kda0121 said...

That's a good question for this movie and several hundred other classics. I don't understand, since it was out on VHS, why couldn't they put it on DVD?! It's obvious that money mongers and not movie lovers are running the business.