Monday, July 2, 2012

Jean Takes a Letter

Carol Baldwin (Jean Arthur) and Helen Davis (Ruth Donnelly) run a secretarial school.  Unfortunately, most of their students seem to be of the same caliber as their current student Maizie West (Dorothea Kent) - no brains, but plenty of looks and a plan to make time with the boss.  Thus begins More Than a Secretary (1936), in which Jean Arthur ends up working AS a secretary when the man who hired (and fired) one of her students complains.  The gentleman in question is publisher Fred Gilbert (George Brent).  His publication, "Body and Brains", is a body-building magazine which regularly uses the face of an attractive model on the body of the exceptionally well-built (and particularly unattractive) Ernest (Lionel Stander).  Of course, the magazine is NOT doing well.  It takes our Jean to put it on the right track.

This is a very cute movie, thanks to the interplay between Brent (who is always wonderful) and Arthur (ditto).  Her Carol, at the start, is somewhat reminiscent of a character she will revisit in 1948 - Phoebe Frost in A Foreign Affair. But she quickly discovers her outer beauty, and becomes the perfect secretary.  Beauty and brains in the same office!  Amazing! And Brent manages to make Fred a bit of a dweeb, but still let you know why Carol is attracted to him.  The scene where he takes her out to a tofu dinner (!!!) is quite humorous.

It is fun to see Lionel Stander as well.  His Ernest longs for the day when his face adorns his own body on the magazine - alas, it seems it is not to be.  Many of us remember Mr. Stander from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and A Star is Born (as well as in Hart to Hart).  It is sad that his career in this country was abbreviated during the 50s and 60s thanks to the McCarthy hearings.

A few words are due, as well, for Dorothea Kent (as Maizie).  She is a hoot.  You can't help but like the opportunistic creature! One sympathizes with Carol's frustration, but I, for one, looked forward to her return.

We'll close with the moment in which Carol finally loses it with Maizie.  See you soon!

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