Friday, April 12, 2024

Living on Love

When Merian Cooper left RKO, he was involved in a contract dispute that was ultimately resolved with his getting the rights to half a dozen RKO movies, which didn't see the light of day for decades. Around 2007, TCM, finally resolved the rights dispute and showed the films for the first time anywhere in over half a century. One of those six, which shows up really rarely since it's a B movie, is Living on Love. TCM recently did re-run it one of their Saturday matinee blocks, so I finally got the chance to record it.

Now, I knew more or less what the movie is about, since it's a remake of the 1933 film Rafter Romance that shows up a bit more since that one stars Ginger Rogers. Taking the Rogers part is on Whitney Bourne, playing a Mary Wilson. There's a depression on, and Mary is having trouble paying the rent at the Venus de Milo Arms rooming house where she lives. With that in mind, her landlord Eli (Solly Ward) is about to dispossess her. But: he has a proposition for her.

He's got a basement room, and another tenant who is also having trouble meeting the bills. He can have the two of them share the basement room at a reduced rate. One of the catches, however, is that they only get it for half a day each since Mary works days and the other tenant works nights. (As I think I said regarding Rafter Romance, what about weekends?) Mary doesn't like the arrangement, especially when it looks like the other tenant is... a man.

Indeed, that other tenant is male, struggling artist Gary Martin (James Dunn). He doesn't like the idea of sharing his room, even more so since he learns that the other partner is a woman. With that in mind, the two "roommates" start playing a series of increasingly nasty pranks on each other.

Of course, you know that the two are going to meet, although not at the apartment. Instead, it's at a restaurant, and as you can guess the two fall in love. Now, you'd think they'd figure out fairly quickly who each other is, but apparently they don't. They each also have someone pursuing them. For Mary it's her boss, telemarketer Oglethorpe (Franklin Pangborn); for Gary that person is sausage magnate Edith (Joan Woodbury). Everybody winds up meeting for the finale....

Where Rafter Romance is charming, Living on Love comes across as just mean. I think that's partly because Whitney Bourne doesn't have the charm of a Ginger Rogers, and partly because the direction, from RKO's B-king Lew Landers, feels like it's on an extreme budget, running a good 10 minutes shorter than Rafter Romance. Definitely stick to the original.

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