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A picture of Gary Cooper gurgling with fatherly pride and busying himself in vain confusion over a cooing infant's care is not one most likely to glimmer before the average movie-goer's mind's eye, For Mr. Cooper is not the type of fellow you would normally suspect of mushiness. Yet that is precisely the picture in which Mr. Cooper is involved in "Casanova Brown," a mild farce-comedy, which came to the Music Hall yesterday. Let those who prefer Mr. Cooper in more cir cumspect roles beware. But let those who are suckers for a new gag have an eye-opening look for themselves.
New gag, did we say? Let's change that to an old gag in modern dress. For the gag which is pulled in this picture is as old a one as there is in the comedy book. It's the one about the shy young fellow who gets himself matrimonially involved and suddenly discovers that he is holding a darling infant without benefit of nurse—or wife. So he undertakes the problem of care in a masculine way Man-versus-diaper, they call it. Always good for laughs.
In this case, the laughs at Mr. Cooper making goo-goo eyes at a tot and furrowing his brow in anxiety because the infant has shockingly belched are supplemented in some measure by well-planted laughs in other spots, particularly at Frank Morgan as a testy potential father-in-law. Nunnally Johnson, who fetched the screen play from "Little Accident," an old stage farce (which itself was based upon a novel, "An Unmarried Father," by Floyd Dell), has built up the gags about the baby within a slightly more adult plot, and has given the best of the wise cracks to Mr. Morgan, a far from gentle soul.
As the father of a girl whom Mr. Cooper is engaged to (but doesn't wed) he whips out some acid witticisms regarding sentiment which are sharply to the mark. In contrast, Mr. Cooper's somewhat obvious and ridiculous clowning over the babe takes on a silly complexion. Mr. Morgan clearly has the upper hand. Teresa Wright plays the baby's mother (a girl whom Mr. Cooper loved and lost) in conventional lace-and-satin manner and Patricia Collinge plays her mom, a flighty dame, as though she were trying to find some meaning in a thoroughly inconsequentle role.
All in all, there is so much endeavor with so little subject in this film that one is exposed to the impression that anything went for a laugh. Laughs there are, but the action loses content and reason on the way. A tremendous amount of talent went into a childish film. Since this is the first production of International Pictures, a new firm, let's call it a start at the literal beginning and hope for better next time.
CASANOVA BROWN, screen play by Nunnally Johnson; based on the play "Little Accident" by Floyd Dell and Thomas Mitchell; directed by Sam Wood; produced by Mr. Johnson for International Pictures. Inc.; released by RKO Radio Pictures. At the Radio City Music Hall.
Casanova Q. Brown . . . . . Gary Cooper
Isabel Drury . . . . . Teresa Wright
Mr. Ferris . . . . . Frank Morgan
Madge Ferris . . . . . Anita Louise
Mrs. Drury . . . . . Patricia Collinge
Mr. Drury . . . . . Edmond Breon
Dr. Zernerke . . . . . Jill Esmond
Monica . . . . . Mary Treen
Frank . . . . . Emory Parnell
Mrs. Ferris . . . . . Isabel Elsom
Butler . . . . . Halliwell Hobbes
BOSLEY CROWTHER New York Times 15 September 1944
From law firms. John Tory's law firm, and some East Coast ones whose names I don't yet remember. (Roll over the picture to read what everything is.)
Correction: Some of the other firms that gave us swag are Bay Street (i.e. big Toronto law firms) too. I just don't know from law firms.
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