Saturday, May 26, 2018

Having Wonderful Time

Last night's DVR viewing was the vintage romantic comedy Having Wonderful Time. (Note that this is the correct title; not Having a Wonderful Time.) As an RKO release that ended up in the library of films Ted Turner bought, it's no surprise that this one is also available on DVD from the Warner Archive collection.

Ginger Rogers plays "Teddy" Shaw, a girl working in the typing pool in Manhattan but living wither her family in the Bronx. She's finally gotten two weeks of paid vacation that she's able to use, so she's going to be going up to Kamp Kare-Free, a resort in the Catskills, something that seems interesting because the Catskills even before World War II were part of the Borscht Belt and nobody here is Jewish. Teddy's coworkers hope she finds a good man up there, although she wants an educated man. (They give her a book of Schopenhauer essays.) Teddy's family think she should go back to the boyfriend Emil (Jack Carson in a very early role) who's been pursuing her and has his own business.

The vacation doesn't start off well for Teddy. She's picked up at the train station by Chick (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), a "waiter" at the resort. They're only waiters during meal times; at other times they're expected to perform other duties catering to the guests such as picking them up at the train station or be dance partners. Chick is a lawyer who hasn't been able to get a good job as an attorney, so we can guess that he's right for Teddy. However, he dumps her luggage by accident, so we can see they're going to have a lot of bumps along the way before we assume they wind up together in the final reel.

At the resort, Teddy's "semi-private" bungalow is shared with some other women: there's Fay (Peggy Conklin); Miriam (Lucille Ball) who has met Buzzy (Lee Bowman) at the camp and started a relationship; Henrietta (Eve Arden). Everybody tries to set Teddy up with a man, but of course she's not certain what she wants while Chick continues to pursue her.

Having Wonderful Time would have been a good movie, but putting Rogers and Fairbanks in the leads makes it more of a programmer. As such, it's not bad by any means, but it's certainly formulaic and arrives at its climax rather abruptly. The movie is helped out by a rich cast of supporting actors. In addition to all those mentioned, there's Donald Meek as the manager of the resort, and Red Skelton as another "waiter" who proms a couple of comic relief skits. He's not quite at the level of acquired taste that he would become in later movies.

Having Wonderful Time is one of those movies that frankly would benefit from being part of one of those TCM four-film box sets. It would be easy enough for TCM to do one with Ginger Rogers movies that don't also have Fred Astaire.

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