Now, for the first regular post of 2020, we’ll dig into the 1938 comedy Having Wonderful Time, starring Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Ginger Rogers plays Teddy Shaw, a typist who has been looking forward to a two week vacation at Camp Kare-Free. She is very much looking forward to the peace and quiet, away from her family, most of whom are trying to push her back together with her ex-boyfriend, Emil Beatty (Jack Carson). As she is taken to the camp, she meets one of the camp’s employees, Chick Kirkland (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), who angers her when he drops her luggage, and the two are both angry with each other. However, she defends him when he gets in trouble with his employer for something else. Soon, they start spending a lot of time together. However, Chick is worried about his job prospects as a lawyer, and doesn’t want to propose marriage. He does suggest having sex, which sends Teddy running. She ends up going with Maxwell “Buzzy” Pangwell (Lee Bowman), and spends the night at his cabin playing backgammon, first with Buzzy, then on her own when Buzzy has had enough and goes to sleep.
Honestly, some of the best fun with this movie isn’t the leads, it’s some of the secondary characters! Lucille Ball as Teddy’s cabin roommate Miriam is a hoot, as she shows elements of the “Lucy” persona that she would become well known for! She spends a good part of the movie chasing after Buzzy, who has affectionately nicknamed the character “Screwball,” which should give you something of a hint as to what her character is like! And then there’s the other famous redhead, Red Skelton (or, as he is billed in the credits here, Richard “Red” Skelton), making his film debut as Itchy, the camp’s social director. Apparently, he had filmed a lot more, but supposedly some of the studio bosses didn’t like his type of comedy and cut a lot of it. He still gets two main moments, where he demonstrates how some people dunk their donuts in their coffee, and later, in a bit involving more physical comedy, shows how some people go up or down a set of stairs at the camp. Those bits and some other moments are still enough to show his brand of comedy, and how he would become a big star in his own right. There are some other familiar faces here, like Eve Arden, but they don’t really get the chance to show off what they could do.
This movie is based on a 1937 play (of the same name) written by Arthur Kober (who also did the screenplay for the movie). Apparently, the play differed in that the characters were more Jewish in nature, but the film censors wanted that aspect toned down and made more relatable for audiences. Personally, I do think this movie does have a charm of its own. I’ll admit, the relationship between the two leads is one of the weaker aspects of the movie. On their own, both actors work well in this movie, but the chemistry just doesn’t quite seem to be there. Still, as I said before, some of the secondary characters are enough fun to make it worthwhile. And, of course, the movie made use of RKO’s connection to Disney at the time (since I think they distributed the movies), as the song “Heigh Ho” from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs is sung by party guests later in the film (maybe a little overused, but it is fun). I do enjoy this movie, and I would definitely still recommend giving it a try!
This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 10 minutes
My Rating: 8/10
Little Caesar (1931) – Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Red Skelton – Ziegfeld Follies (1945)
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