“There’s good people in the world, and there’s the other kind — the kind that go away.”
When a wealthy Italian grape farmer (Charles Laughton) in Napa Valley becomes smitten with a beautiful waitress (Carole Lombard) in San Francisco, he asks his handsome friend (William Gargan) to help him write letters to her and propose marriage. Soon she comes to visit, thinking Laughton looks like Gargan — and when she finds out the truth, she has a hard choice to make.
- Carole Lombard Films
- Charles Laughton Films
- Love Triangle
- Play Adaptation
Before achieving fame as a successful Hollywood screenwriter, Garson Kanin (husband of writer-actress Ruth Gordon) directed a few studio films, including Tom, Dick, and Harry (1941) and this adaptation of Sidney Howard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1924 play. Unfortunately, it’s a creaky production, dominated by Laughton’s overly enthusiastic portrayal of a hardy Italian who we want to like but can’t help feeling annoyed by.
He makes a few key mistakes early on out of social anxiety, and things spiral from there, thanks to Lombard’s vulnerability and the presence of womanizing Gargan. Lombard tries her best with her challenging role, and Gargan is fine as a casual cad:
… but Frank Fay’s portrayal as a noble local priest simply piles on the schmaltz.
While we’re happy to see these individuals showing true generosity of spirit by the end of the film, there isn’t much authentic satisfaction in the outcome. I’m sure this was an audience-pleaser in its day, but it’s not must-see viewing at this point.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Harry Stradling’s cinematography
No; you can skip this one unless you’re curious.