A 1941 screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks, from a Billy Wilder
screenplay, with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.
The main question: how could I have waited so long to watch it?
Cooper plays Professor Bertram Potts, the youngest member of a gang of
eight scholars diligently working on a multi-year encyclopedia project.
The project is funded, it's explained, by a benefactor who was outraged
that the Encyclopedia Brittanica failed to properly credit his
invention of the electric toaster.
They live a monastic existence in a Manhattan brownstone.
Potts is writing an article about slang, but a
chance visit from a garbageman makes him realize that his grasp of the
subject is woefully out of date.
So Potts goes out into early-40's New York, soaking up the colorful
language of the street, poolhall, subway, and ballpark. He winds up at a
nightclub, where the star performer is one Sugarpuss O'Shea (Miss Stanwyck).
Potts wants Sugarpuss badly—for research purposes, of
course! She's reluctant, but (as it turns out) the DA is after her to
testify against her mob boss boyfriend. So she decides to hide out
with the encyclopedists, with hilarious results.
There are a lot of things to like here. Nobody played brassy bad girl roles
(with or without the optional "heart of gold" accessory)
Barbara Stanwyck. Coop's pretty good at light comedy too. The dialogue
is clever, and must have been considered pretty racy for 1941.
supporting cast contains lots of actors any old-movie fan will
recognize, and they're all great here: Dana Andrews, in a rare comic
role as the mob boss; Dan Duryea and Ralph Peters as his bumbling
henchmen; Charles Lane as an officious lawyer; Henry Travers (Clarence
himself), S. Z. Sakall (Carl himself), and Richard Haydn (the
Caterpillar himself) as professors. And more.
And also Gene Krupa and his band. Whoa.
2010-01-13 5:00 PM EDT
Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:17 AM EDT