Category Archives: On the Set

Four’s a Crowd (1938)

rosalind russell errol flynn on the set four's a crowd
Rosalind Russell and Errol Flynn filming a scene of Four’s a Crowd (1938)

Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland became a popular, bankable screen couple starting in 1935 with the film Captain Blood and Warner Bros. wanted to continue that trend with the 1938 comedy Four’s a Crowd. However, it is not so much Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland who stand out. It is Rosalind Russell, playing an energetic, fast-talking ace reporter, much like her Hildy Johnson of His Girl Friday (1940). It is obvious from her turn as a reporter in this film that she was perfect for this type of role. A few years ago, I read a double biography of the de Havilland sisters, Olivia and her sister, Joan Fontaine. Something that has always stuck out in my memory was the fact that when Olivia, a mere 21 years old when they started filming Four’s a Crowd, was actually jealous of Rosalind Russell because of her impeccable timing, which—and I will not lie—made me smile. After all, Olivia was the star, wasn’t she? And yet she was envious of the skills of the supporting actress. And oh, she had reason to be –Roz completely stole the show from them all. She belonged in comedy, making people laugh, and it’s great to watch her in her first chance at screwball comedy.

olivia de havilland patric knowles errol flynn rosalind russell four's a crowd
Olivia de Havilland, Patric Knowles, Errol Flynn, and Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

The film opens with Miss Rosalind Russell as Jean Christy strolling happily into the newspaper offices where she works. She has a great scoop and is eager to start writing it on her typewriter. In the meantime, the reporter sitting next to her tries to tell her that the newspaper is going under and they will all probably lose their jobs. Not really listening to him, she keeps inserting insulting quips now and then: “Now listen, double ugly, please!” She finally wakes up out of her reverie and goes straight into the publisher’s office, a man she has never met. She finds Pat Buckley (Patric Knowles), the young publisher, who meets her without his pants on. Interesting meeting, to say the least. She tries to help him put his pants on, which makes him uncomfortable, but all she cares about is seeing that the newspaper doesn’t go under. She suggests rehiring Bob Lansford (Errol Flynn) as the managing editor because he is tops in the publicity department and getting the newspaper on top again. Pat has a personal problem with Bob because he is always trying to tell him what to do in his romantic relationships. Jean knows all about it and he says to her, “You know everything, don’t you?” She replies, “Well, that’s what you pay me for!” His girlfriend calls up. Her name is Lorri Dillingwell (Olivia de Havilland) and he coos over the phone to her, which annoys Jean. She leaves matter-of-factly, spouting “Oh, Mr. Buckley, please!

rosalind russell four's a crowd
Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

You may be a social lion to your friends, but to me, you’re just an animal cracker!” She turns to his assistant, pinching his cheeks and imitating Pat, she says “Coochie coochie coo!” before getting herself out of there.

Jean treks over to Bob Lansford’s office, intending to get him to come back to work on the paper. He doesn’t notice her at all the minute she enters his office, but she finally says, “Don’t look now, but I’m still here,” which is a line that is repeated throughout the film. He looks up at her and says, “Oh, so you are.” She tells him the problem with the newspaper and he doesn’t want to come back. But when she hears him trying to talk to John P. Dillingwell (Walter Connolly) and can’t get a word in edgewise, she slyly lets it slip that Pat’s romantic partner this time around is Lorri Dillingwell, John P. Dillingwell’s granddaughter, and she pretends that she is a romantic rival. Hearing the name Dillingwell and the club they’ll be at tonight, the Jamaica Room, he immediately drags Jean out of the office.

rosalind russell four's a crowd
Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

That night, they bust in on Pat and Lorri’s table. Lorri, who is quite bored at the club, is actually very amused when Bob starts insulting her by calling her a “nitwit type.” Pat lets Bob know that he isn’t keen on Jean’s idea to bring him back to the paper and Bob knows immediately what Jean is up to. “Tricky little wench, aren’t you?” he remarks to Jean. Desperate to land the big account of making her grandfather, the rich and unpopular Dillingwell, into an angel in the public’s eyes with his public relations business, he charms Lorri on the dance floor. Before Pat knows it, Lorri is being taken home by Bob and he is now alone at the club with Jean.

In the car, Bob starts telling Lorri the story of his life. He is still not finished at 8 o’clock the next morning and Lorri responds to this with “My goodness, you’ve had a long life.” When they get to her home finally, she introduces Bob to her grandfather, who naturally hates Bob. Once he hears his name, he whistles through his fingers and a large group of bounding, barking Great Danes start rushing toward him. Chased by the dogs, he runs quickly to the gate and stands outside it, laughing at the dogs. He bites one of the dog’s tails and the poor dog whimpers loudly in pain.

rosalind russell errol flynn four's a crowd
Rosalind Russell and Errol Flynn in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

Suddenly, a roaring laugh rings through the bizarre scene with the dogs and he turns around and sees Jean Christy sitting in a car, laughing at him. She happily yells, “At last I’ve seen it! Man bites dog!”

Back at the newspaper offices, Bob signs a contract to help them out. Bob, Jean, and Pat put their heads together and set out to make Dillingwell the most hated man in America through scandalizing headlines and articles. Of course, Lorri isn’t thrilled with their campaign and gives Pat a punch in the nose. Meanwhile, Bob sneaks into the Dillingwell house and convinces Dillingwell to have a race with model trains, which is Dillingwell’s hobby. If Bob wins the race, he finally gets to have a few words with Dillingwell. He agrees and at the same time, Bob also convinces Lorri that she is in love with him. The night before the big race, he sneaks into the kitchen and takes all the packets of butter out of the fridge, stuffing them into his pockets. Before the race the next morning, he rubs the butter all over Dillingwell’s track so his train will slip and slow down. After he wins the race, they have lunch and he gets a chance to talk to him. Unfortunately, Lorri has also invited Jean over and Bob is unhappy about this. Dillingwell still wants nothing to do with his services and Bob goes to discuss things with Jean.

rosalind russell four's a crowd magazine
Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938) on the cover of a magazine

He finds out that Jean has in fact been in love with him all these years: “I’m in love with a man whom I dislike intensely, who’d cheat me, who’d lie to me, whom I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw the Queen Mary. I…” to which he replies, “You don’t mean, do you?” “Does the description fit? You big lug…” Suddenly, when he sees Dillingwell coming outside, he drags Jean over and kisses her in front of Dillingwell and Lorri. Right away, Jean can see through his act and knows he is up to no good. Unfortunately for him, Dillingwell has been told that it was Bob’s idea to make him the most hated man in America and once again, he calls the dogs on him. So there he goes again, running toward the front gate in just his swimming trunks.

However, in spite of everything, Dillingwell decides to use Bob’s services in order to improve his sagging reputation. He gives millions of Dillingwell’s money to a charity for infantile paralysis under an assumed name, H. Louis Brown. He will seem like a better man if he anonymously gives to charity instead of broadcasting it to everyone. What follows is one of the funniest scenes in the film – Bob, who has two women in love with him (Jean and Lorri), has both women on two different phones talking to him.

rosalind russell four's a crowd
Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938): “Don’t look now, but I’m still here.”

For anyone who thought Errol Flynn could only do adventure and drama, they should watch this scene. As he talks back and forth between phones, which looks like a very confusing task, it is funny how he gets each woman to believe that the other is not on the phone with him. This single scene elevates Errol to second funniest in the film (behind Roz, of course).

Back at the office, Jean and Pat have no idea who this H. Louis Brown is, so Pat sends Jean on a mission to find him. After a long search of every alternative of the name, she gets her shoes shined by a man named H. Louis Brown. He gets his photograph taken and now they know that there is a rich man giving millions of dollars behind this name. They just need to expose the man. She ventures over to Bob’s office, gently trying to get him to tell her who the man is, calling him “darling,” while he calls her “sweetheart.” As they coo pet names to each other, she roughly pulls his hair and he in turn bites her hand, causing her to squeal with pain. As soon as Bob leaves his office, Jean makes a run for his file room, going through every single file in the cabinets, searching for a clue.

rosalind russell four's a crowd
Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938): “Ouch!”

With no hope left in her search, she tosses the last paper and pensively places her fist under her chin, not realizing she is looking right at a miniature statue of Rodin’s The Thinker. The face she makes as she realizes she is imitating the statue is priceless. Just when she thinks all hope is lost, the Goodwill Clinic calls up Bob’s office and she figures out that Bob will be there that evening. She runs for the clinic and pretends to be Bob’s wife in order to get inside. Eventually, she sees Lorri and her grandfather begging to be let in and she immediately knows that Dillingwell is the culprit behind “H. Louis Brown.” She has Bob over a barrel with a juicy story like this to tell her paper. She is angry when she hears Lorri mention that Bob is her fiancé and she congratulates them, not meaning it at all.

rosalind russell four's a crowd
Rosalind Russell in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

When Jean meets Pat, telling him she has the story, she reveals that she will not tell him because she is in love with Bob Lansford and Bob doesn’t want her to leak it. However, after a fainting spell following a proposal from Pat, she agrees to marry Pat, but will only tell him the story after they are married. Once Bob finds out that Pat and Jean will be married that night, he goes after them with Lorri by his side, intending to marry her.

hugh herbert olivia de havilland rosalind russell errol flynn patric knowles four's a crowd
Clockwise from top: Hugh Herbert, Olivia de Havilland, Rosalind Russell, Errol Flynn, and Patric Knowles in Four’s a Crowd (1938)

Once they get to the justice of the peace, they all act like they don’t care about who marries who, but we all know they are marrying the wrong people. In fact, they do all they can to get the other couple to get married first. After much confusion, they end up marrying the people they love, and it is a surprise, considering who the stars of this film are—Jean to Bob and Lorri to Pat. The film ends in a very silly way when the four of them get into a car together, trying to get away from Dillingwell, who has brought cars of dogs with him to chase after them (what?!) and then Bob and Lorri kiss in the car, as if they don’t know who they just married. “Hey! That’s my wife!” Oh, boy.

IMDB page for Four’s a Crowd

TCM overview of the film

A clip from the film for you to enjoy:

Man-Proof (1938)

rosalind russell man-proof
Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

The first film Rosalind Russell made in 1938 was Man-Proof, which, although she had co-starred in 5 films previous and even been the star of one, only put her at third billing behind Myrna Loy and Franchot Tone. Although the film is fun in parts and Myrna Loy clearly steals the show, I have always felt it was unfair to Roz to put her in such a small role that has her disappear completely about 45 minutes after it starts. She deserved more than that at this point in her career, but the bright side is, at least she got to work with Myrna Loy, a beloved actress at the time and one of my favorites. Roz’s film debut was in a Myrna Loy film, Evelyn Prentice, but she never shared one second of screen time with Miss Loy. This time, they had several scenes together and I think although they break each other’s hearts a little by tossing one man’s affection around like a football, you can tell they like each other and are probably friends offscreen.

As the film starts, each main actor’s photograph appears on the screen with their name and their character’s name, accompanied by a different piece of music for each actor. Rosalind Russell’s music “as Elizabeth” is rather soft and subdued, much like her character tended to be. First we see Nana Bryant, who plays Meg Swift, typing out another one of her romance novels she is so famous for.

rosalind russell myrna loy man-proof
Rosalind Russell and Myrna Loy on the set of Man-Proof (1938)

Next we see her daughter, Mimi (Myrna Loy), who is impatiently waiting on word from the man she loves, Alan Wythe (Walter Pidgeon). When the doorbell rings, she eagerly runs to the door, hoping it’s Alan. Unfortunately, it’s Jimmy Kilmartin (Franchot Tone), a family friend. It is rather amusing as the two of them exchange comical barbs back and forth, insulting each other. I think even at this early point in the film, there is something between them that they don’t see or want to admit. Mimi finally gets a telegram from Alan, but all happiness is drained from her face when she reads that he will marry her friend, Elizabeth (Rosalind Russell) and they hope that Mimi will be a bridesmaid. Devastated, she goes on about how she at least got the “consolation prize” and “Do bridesmaids ever wear black?” The way she says this last line is rather funny and will show anyone that Myrna Loy is talented in comedy.

rosalind russell man-proof
Rosalind Russell in her bizarre wedding veil! (Man-Proof, 1938)

At the wedding, all is serious and romantic as any other wedding, but nothing can take away from the bizarre and comical wedding veil Rosalind Russell is wearing in the scene. She looks rather like an alien and although they are saying their wedding vows, I can’t help laughing at her. I don’t know whose idea it was for her to wear such a ridiculous veil, but it was a terrible one at best. After they are married, Mimi, who is still heartbroken over it, gives her best wishes to Elizabeth and then to Alan, she says, “I hope you’ll be very unhappy… because anything I wish for never comes true!” While the other bridesmaids hurriedly get Elizabeth ready to go off on her honeymoon, Mimi starts drinking to ease her pain. Once Alan goes in to see his new bride and she has taken off her veil from Mars, we can all start focusing on what’s going on in the movie. Although it is later established that Alan married Elizabeth mainly for her money, I must say they are rather cute in this scene when they hug and kiss. After Elizabeth goes in to finish getting ready, Mimi comes in, drunk as all get out. She stumbles in, acting silly and giggling.

myrna loy rosalind russell man-proof
Myrna Loy greeting Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

This is a very funny scene. In fact, I think it’s one of the best scenes and it’s fun to see Myrna Loy drunk. The way she is talking to Alan and giggling is hilarious and is more proof that Myrna Loy is stealing the show. We staggers over to the door where Elizabeth is and opens the door. She gives Elizabeth her congratulations and tells her goodbye. We do not see Elizabeth, but we hear her voice. Mimi ends her little speech with “Gee, you’re pretty,” then as she walks out of the room, she adds, “So am I!”

walter pidgeon myrna loy john miljan rosalind russell man-proof
Walter Pidgeon, Myrna Loy, John Miljan, and Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

Mimi’s mother sends Jimmy on a wild goose chase, trying to track down Mimi, who is staying out all night getting drunk. Jimmy finds her in a bar by herself and they have a long talk about what has happened. She eventually finds herself home and wakes up the next morning with a debilitating hangover. As her mother comes in, she is expecting a lecture on what she was doing last night, but Meg tells her she’s not that kind of mother. She just advises her to find something else besides Alan to focus on. As her mother leaves, Mimi quips, “How’d I ever happen to get a mother like you?” and Meg says, “You’re much too young to know.” While funny, it’s also a little odd because it’s obvious Mimi is more than old enough to know exactly what she is talking about.

rosalind russell myrna loy man-proof
Rosalind Russell and Myrna Loy in Man-Proof (1938)

Soon afterwards, Mimi gets a job at the newspaper working in the art department, where Jimmy also works as a cartoonist. She is very excited that she has the opportunity to draw a bed for a furniture ad. She shows Jimmy the drawing and although he isn’t very impressed (“It’s a bed. What does it look like, a horse?!”), she is beyond happy. When they see an article in the newspaper about Alan and Elizabeth coming back from their honeymoon to give a big homecoming party. She beams and says she can go to the party because she “loves this bed!” and not Alan. She does indeed attend the party and when she goes out to the back porch and Alan joins her, he is disappointed that she doesn’t seem to carry a torch for him any longer. Elizabeth joins them and when Mimi tells her, “I love furniture!” Elizabeth replies with a very emphatic “Whaaaat?”

myrna loy franchot tone rosalind russell walter pidgeon man-proof
Myrna Loy, Franchot Tone, Rosalind Russell, and Walter Pidgeon in Man-Proof (1938)

I have to mention this because ever since I first became a fan of Rosalind Russell’s, I have noticed the funny way she emphasizes her “what” when she is surprised, shocked, or even amused. She does it in many of her films and as I became more of a fan, I came to expect it and when she didn’t stretch that “what” longer than necessary, I was disappointed. As you study an actress more intently, you are bound to notice things like that. Besides that, there are the widened eyes deemed “Roz eyes,” the way she involuntarily raises her eyebrow in a dubious situation, her crooked front tooth that is only visible when she smiles wide or laughs, and the many words in the English language she pronounces in her own little way.

rosalind russell man-proof
Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

The next day, Mimi and Alan go to the fights without Elizabeth. Alan tells Mimi that his wife is sick and didn’t want to come. Elizabeth doesn’t mind if Alan takes Mimi. They have a grand ol’ time and even go back to the bar where Mimi had been drinking herself into a stupor after Alan’s wedding. This time, she is happy, and she is very impressed with how far she has come. They end the evening by coming around the corner toward Mimi’s apartment, arm in arm, dancing and singing “On a Sunday Afternoon.” I also notice that Myrna Loy is most likely not comfortable singing on camera. She sings very quietly, letting Walter Pidgeon take up most of the slack.

walter pidgeon rosalind russell man-proof
Walter Pidgeon and Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

The next day, Mimi informs her mother and Jimmy that she is going to go after Alan after all and she is going to tell Elizabeth. Of course, she takes the coward’s way out and calls Elizabeth on the phone instead of telling her in person. After Mimi tells Elizabeth her feelings about Alan, Elizabeth stares, shocked and saddened by the news, and slowly hangs up.  When Alan comes home later that night, she tells him that Mimi phoned in order to gauge his reaction. They get ready for a party but before you know it, she is back in bed, letting Alan know she is still sick and “doesn’t want to risk it.” She encourages him to go out by himself anyway. When he leaves, she stares after him longingly with tears welling up in her eyes. It is rather sad to see her so willing to give up her man that easily.

rosalind russell man-proof
Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

Later that night, Alan stops by Mimi’s place after having a confrontation with Jimmy at a bar and before long, he kisses her. However, there is suddenly a knock on her door and she knows right away that it is Elizabeth. It is indeed who she thought it was and dressed in a perfectly lovely dress, she enters the room and looks around, taking in what is in front of her. This is Rosalind’s best scene in the film and for once, she actually steals attention away from the star. She takes center stage right away and does all the talking while the other two just listen to her. She says she knows Alan never loved her, that he only married her because she’s a “rich girl,” and that he is just an ordinary man.

rosalind russell man-proof
Rosalind Russell in Man-Proof (1938)

She was willing to stay with him because she loved him so much. However, eventually, Alan was trying to be in love with her—so hard—that the effort was desperate. She started to feel sorry for him because he is obviously a very lonely man who would be going after a parade of women throughout their marriage. However, now that he is really in love (with Mimi)… but she doesn’t know how to finish her thought. She passes up on the drink with Mimi and Alan, not able to be noble much longer. As she leaves, she says to Mimi, “Wouldn’t it be funny, Mimi, if Alan got sick and you and I went to the fights?” With that, she leaves and never comes back. Mimi watches her go and says, “There goes a general in any woman’s army.” Although Rosalind Russell has bid her adieu to the film, she ended it on an impressive note and with a funny line to boot.

rosalind russell walter pidgeon man-proof
Rosalind Russell and Walter Pidgeon in Man-Proof (1938)

Mimi is now happy that she can be with Alan, but he will have none of it. He tells her that no matter what, there would be a parade of women just like Elizabeth said. He leaves her, going back after Elizabeth instead. Mimi’s heart has been broken for the last time by Alan Wythe and she swings by Jimmy’s place. They go for a drive and Mimi insists they pick up an old man hitchhiking by the side of the road. He is played by the incomparable Harry Davenport and is on his way to see his young daughter, who has just had a baby. Jimmy and Mimi start making up a story about how they have twins that Mimi thinks should be named “Nip” and “Tuck.” It is funny how the expression on the old man’s face changes as they tell him that they are “just pals.”

myrna loy man-proof
Myrna Loy in Man-Proof (1938)

The film ends with a fun scene in which Meg convinces Mimi and Jimmy that they are in love with each other and just keeps laughing and laughing. After Mimi tells Jimmy that she’s hungry, he kisses her. He says, “How do you feel now?” And she replies, “Well, I’m not hungry anymore.” As it fades out, Meg exclaims, “The end of a beauuutiful friendship!”

 

IMDb page for Man-Proof (1938)

TCM overview of the film

Trailer of the film: