Thursday, July 21, 2011

She Married Her Boss (1935)

Gregory La Cava directed some of the seminal films of the 1930s, My Man Godfrey and Stage Door being the first that usually come to mind. I also enjoy some of this director's lesser known stuff including the pleasing 1935 romp She Married Her Boss. Claudette Colbert plays a driven, highly effective executive secretary who is in love with her boss (Melvyn Douglas). In order to get him to notice her as a woman she agrees to straighten out his chaotic domestic affairs, including a stroppy, bratty child, an overwrought sister and a pack of disagreeable, dishonest servants. After she sorts out his life, he marries her as a reward. You know, just like real life. She expects romance to come eventually but instead her man is even more of a workaholic than before, partly because she's no longer in the office keeping things in order.

What's a girl to do? Well, if it'a 1930s film, in this situation, the best thing to do is to run off with Robert Montgomery, play piano, drink, dance and get caught by the press in a compromising situation. If Robert Montgomery is unavailable, than a Robert Montgomery-type should be enlisted to be the good-time Charlie, friend with benefits. Such is the case in She Married her Boss and a justifiably forgotten Michael Bartlett plays the boyfriend. I found myself longing for Melvyn Douglas to play the good-time Charlie because he does those types of roles so well. (See Angel, Ninotchka, etc.) Here, Douglas is stuck playing the Herbert Marshall type. If we had Herbert Marshall and Melvyn Douglas then we'd really have something. Fantasy football casting aside, this is still a fun, if predictable film. Nothing here to threaten the greatness of Godfrey atop the La Cava canon, but still not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.

My biggest beef with this film is the insipid, oft-repeated idea that a woman's first job is marriage. They were running along nicely with the idea that Colbert's character was indispensable at home AND at work, when they suddenly decided work wasn't important. What? Maybe it was Hollywood's way of pandering to the unemployed to make out that a job wasn't that important. Or maybe it was pandering to the production code which suddenly meant that women couldn't work and be happy any more. At any rate, Colbert is stuck at home, trying to look feminine in a lot of hideous lace collars and I just want the snappy, competent, well-dressed Gal Friday back.

Colbert was at the height of her powers coming off It Happened One Night, the year before. Sexism, bad clothes and anemic scripts can't hold her back. She just shines. And Douglas has the good sense as he always did when acting with magnificent, talented actresses like Garbo and Dietrich, to just get out of the way and let her carry the show.