We’re back for another film featuring this month’s Star, Deanna Durbin! This time, it’s her 1946 film Because Of Him, also starring Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone!
Coming Up Shorts! with… The Barber Of Seville (1944)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)
(Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)
Woody Woodpecker stops in at the Seville Barber Shop for a haircut, but the owner is out for his physical. When an Indian chief and a construction worker come in, Woody proceeds to wreak havoc on the two men. This was another fun one! I’ll admit, it quickly brings to mind the later Rabbit Of Seville Bugs Bunny cartoon, given its references to the Barber Of Seville opera, and is not quite as much fun as that Looney Tunes cartoon. The biggest problem here is the series of stereotyped gags revolving around the Native American customer. Take away that, and this one is a lot of fun, especially once Woody starts in singing “The Barber Of Seville Overture” while working on the construction worker. That sequence alone is well worth it (and, compared to some of the previous shorts, Woody Woodpecker is now sporting the look that he seems to be best known for)!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Lead stage actor John Sheridan (Charles Laughton) has just finished a successful run in the play Cyrano De Bergerac, and is looking forward to enjoying his vacation doing nothing but fishing. However, his producer, Charlie Gilbert (Stanley Ridges), is trying to line up the cast for John’s next show, Strange Laughter, currently being written by Paul Taylor (Franchot Tone). The playwright and producer both have an actress in mind for the lead, but John wants somebody else (but doesn’t say who before leaving). On his way to his fishing spot, John stops at a diner, where he gives an autograph to his waitress, Kim Walker (Deanna Durbin). What he doesn’t know is that the piece of paper that she had him sign was a typed letter of introduction to Charlie Gilbert endorsing her for the role! With the encouragement of her friend and roommate Nora Bartlett (Helen Broderick), Kim takes the letter to Charlie’s office. Charlie (who was unable to get ahold of John since John had given him false information as to where he would be going fishing) takes the letter at face value and decides to give her the part. When he comes into Charlie’s office, Paul (who had met her on the street and tried to flirt with her) questions her about her stage experience. When he finds out that she has none, his attitude toward her changes, and he decides that she cannot have the part. Choosing to go with “John’s” advice, Charlie decides to ignore Paul, and throws a party at John’s apartment to announce her for the role. John arrives at his apartment while the party is going on (having ended his vacation early due to frequent rain preventing him from doing any fishing), and quickly finds out what is going on from his butler, Martin (Donald Meek). He allows Kim to keep her deception going, but tries to walk her home as soon as possible. Once they arrive, he admits that he does like her, but advises her to return to her hometown. Seeing how devastated Kim is over his words, Nora decides to call up the newspapers and tell them that Kim attempted suicide because of John’s rejection. The next day, after seeing the news, John decides to go “reconcile” with her and take her out to a nightclub (merely for the sake of appearances). Afterwards, he still believes she should abandon her hope of acting. That is, until he hears her sing, and then he decides to give her the part in the play. When she arrives back at her apartment, she runs into Paul, who had seen the paper and thought that she had tried to commit suicide because of him. They start to fall for each other, and he offers her the part. Then he sees the script that John had given her, and, although she tries to tell him the truth, he refuses to believe her. In rehearsals, he really picks on her acting, which results in John threatening to leave the show if Paul doesn’t stop. So, Paul leaves, with John now directing the show. As the show opening gets closer, Paul sues to have his name removed from the play. Kim tries to convince him to come see the final rehearsals, but he won’t budge. Will the play be a success? Will Paul come to his senses about Kim?
After It Started With Eve, Deanna Durbin had tried to branch out with different types of roles under producer Felix Jackson (who became her second husband in 1945). She tried tackling some more dramatic roles, but her fans much preferred her in the musical comedies that she was known for. So, Universal made plans for her to work with her It Started With Eve co-star and friend Charles Laughton (although the film was originally to be titled Catherine The Last). When Franchot Tone (who had co-starred with her in Nice Girl? and His Butler’s Sister) was brought in, the title became Because Of Him. When released, the film received mixed to bad reviews, which certainly didn’t help Deanna Durbin out any as her career was now winding down.
Quite simply stated, another Deanna Durbin film, another new one to me, and another one that I liked! Overall, it was quite a fun film, and kept me laughing throughout! Deanna is fun as a wannabe actress trying to find an inroads into the profession (even if she really doesn’t know much about acting), and Charles Laughton’s John Sheridan is also a hoot! I thoroughly enjoyed watching him ham things up as an actor constantly borrowing lines from his plays and making everything more dramatic (and teaching her a thing or two in the process). Plain and simple, their relationship is the heart of the film, and makes it quite entertaining!
In spite of that, though, I will readily admit, it’s one of the weaker Deanna Durbin films I’ve seen so far. The main issue I have with the film is the relationship between Deanna’s Kim and Franchot Tone’s Paul, as they spend most of the film at odds with each other. It starts out innocently (and humorously) enough, as he flirts with her when he meets her on the street (even if she doesn’t give him her phone number). Then, when he realizes that she is an amateur trying to make it into his play, he soundly rejects her for the part, and never lets up (except when he briefly believes that she attempted suicide “because of him”). The idea that they are “in love” just doesn’t work too well for me. I’m also not too crazy about the music in the film, although I will say that I enjoyed how it was staged (with Deanna singing “Good Bye” standing out quite a bit, as she tries to pester Paul throughout his hotel in an attempt to get him to come to the final dress rehearsal). With regards to Deanna’s co-stars here, I don’t think this film is as good as It Started With Eve or Nice Girl? (can’t speak to His Butler’s Sister, as I haven’t seen that one yet). It was still an entertaining one that I look forward to seeing again and again (whether on its own merits or in watching any of Deanna’s filmography)! Certainly one that I would recommend!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Because Of Him (1946)
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. The Blu-ray release appear to be an HD scan that overall looks very good, with little to no damage evident. I’ll admit, I was surprised to see this one released on Blu-ray, since it was NOT one of the nine Deanna Durbin films that Kino Lorber had licensed (with six of them getting dropped when the first three-film set bombed). I didn’t expect this release, but it looks quite good, and is probably the best way to see this very fun film!
Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Can’t Help Singing (1944) – Deanna Durbin – Something In The Wind (1947)
It Started With Eve (1941) – Charles Laughton – Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)
Nice Girl? (1941) – Franchot Tone – Here Come The Groom (1951)
Nice Girl? (1941) – Helen Broderick
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