Sunday, August 30, 2009

If You Could Only Cook

A lesser-known Jean Arthur comedy that I don't think I've recommended before is If You Could Only Cook, airing at 11:45 PM ET tonight.

The movie starts with Jean Arthur on a park bench, unemployed and looking through the want ads. Into her life walks Herbert Marshall. He's an engineer/executive at an automobile manufacturer, who has just had one of his radical new designs rejected by the board. He doesn't tell Arthur this, however, instead sitting down to read the want ads with her. Eventually they come upon an ad for a house that needs both a cook and a butler. On a lark, Marshall decides to join Arthur in applying for the jobs, pretending to be married to her. This causes problems right away, because he's engaged to be married. But, he's about to find out that he's got much bigger problems.

When the two arrive at what is to be their new job, they discover that the place that hired them is actually a group of gangsters! Worse, in an attempt to impress Arthur, Marshall returns to his office to get some of his car designs -- which Arthur promptly takes to a rival company to try to sell. They know that if they tried to use these plans, they'd have the pants sued off them by Marshall's company, so they assume the plans have been stolen, and have Arthur arrested. By this time, Marshall has begun to realize he might be falling in love with Arthur, but can't figure out whether to marry for love or, for the sake of his company, go through with the marriage to his current fiancée.

If You Could Only Cook is a pleasant little movie, but not one that does much to distinguish itself as outstanding. This was 1935, when a whole slew of screwball comedies were released, and it was easy for a smaller movie like If You Could Only Cook to get lost in the crowd. Despite seeming to put every screwball comedy device in the plot, and having a plot that zigs and zags all over the place, If You Could Only Cook is never less than entertaining and, at a little over 70 minutes, doesn't overstay its welcome.

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