Imagine, you meet a man on a park bench and within less than five minutes, you invite him to pose as your husband. You say, only in a movie? Well, you’re right. No one in their right mind would do that, but in If Only You Could Cook, the man on the bench is Herbert Marshall and the woman inviting him is Jean Arthur. The funny thing too is that Jean Arthur thinks he’s poor. Somehow she doesn’t notice that he’s wearing an impeccably well tailored and pressed suit (see below). Perhaps she’s too busy looking for a job. If she doesn’t notice that, it makes you wonder if she also wouldn’t notice that he’s a serial killer! Actually, since he’s Herbert Marshall, he’s a CEO of a car company.
As part of July is Clean Movie month, I watched The More the Merrier, a screwball comedy produced during the Code. I was only introduced to the film a few years ago, which seems impossible given I’ve been watching Old Hollywood films since I was twelve. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, and is romantic and funny. It’s wonderful too because I haven’t worn it out like I have my other favorites Adam’s Rib and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, having watched them a gazillion times.
The More the Merrier is set in wartime Washington, DC, where a housing storage is in full swing. To do her patriotic duty, Constance (Jean Arthur) rents ½ of her apartment to Mr. Dingle (Charles Coburn), who then rents ½ of his ½ to a high type, clean cut, nice young fella, Joe Carter (Joel McCrea), who appears in the first scene carrying a propeller—all high type, clean cut, young fellas carry propellers.
The More the Merrier illustrates how close Hollywood played to the edge of the Code because it’s really a very naughty film. It has only one thing on its mind: to find love for Constance, albeit with a marriage contract. It also illustrates how the Code forced the writers and directors to play with words and situations to help Constance find love. Isn’t that so much better than watching a made-for-Netflix-movie where the people are you-know-what-ing before the title credits are over?
If you haven’t seen The More the Merrier, you really must. Constance’s clothes and hair styles are so fun and funky, and Joel McCrea is so charming, and Mr. Dingle is so damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed ahead. After watching it, you’ll know that Old Hollywood is better than New Netflix, especially Code Old Hollywood.