STREAMING SATURDAY! Spring Fever Hits Hard in Archie Mayo’s CALL IT A DAY
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“The first spring day is in the Devil’s pay.”
So the Hilton family is about to discover in Archie Mayo’s Call It a Day. The temptingly warm rays have loosened their coats, their collars, and their inhibitions—along with everybody else’s.
Catherine Hilton (Olivia de Havilland) is swooning over a caddish artist twice her age, sister Ann (Bonita Granville) is mooning over Rosetti, and brother Martin (Peter Willes) longs to hijack the family car and make a dash for the continent.
And their parents are no less wobbly: Roger (Ian Hunter), usually a sane, sturdy accountant, is half-heartedly fending off advances from a film actress who’s sought him out to untangle her taxes, and Dorothy (Frieda Inescort), the absolute brick of this brood, is caught up in a case of mistaken identity with the world’s most ardent suitor (Roland Young; more on him here).
And just as spring turns the family’s lives upside down, the movie kicks the legs out from under some tedious typecasting. In film after film, the doughily hot Ian Hunter loses the girl to someone not nearly as worthy (including George Brent, for God’s sake). Here, he not only starts out with the girl, but finds another in mad pursuit.
And Frieda Inescort was often relegated to chilly supporting roles, perhaps most famously as Carolyn Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, where she treated Elizabeth Bennet like a vaguely foul odor that had wafted in with the dustman. But here, she gets to break out into screwball comedy and mix it up romantically with not one but two men, while tenderly carrying her family and the whole film on her elegant shoulders. And on top of all that, perennial brat Bonita Granville gets to show off her dreamier side.
Dorothy’s romantic mix-up is set in motion as she’s out at the market, dutifully shopping for radishes—when she’s bumbled into by Frank Haines (Young), who’s immediately smitten. Frank’s sister (Alice Brady), who’s also a friend of Dorothy’s, has set him up with a local spinster, and when Dorothy meets Frank later that day, he’s thrilled—thinking she’s his intended. Even when he learns she’s happily married, he’s undeterred:
Frank: Does he beat you?
Frank: Does he beat you?
Dorothy: Who, Roger? Good heavens, no!
Frank: Oh, but he must! It’s only fair! You’re desperate and unhappy and I’ve come to your rescue. That’s the way it’s got to be.
He then suggests she ditch the kids and run away with him.
Dorothy: What? Give up my children?
Frank: You’ve had them long enough, haven’t you? Well, divide them up then!
Dorothy: I couldn’t do that. There are three of them. It wouldn’t come out even.
And on it goes…
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