Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
Theodora Goes Wild (1936)

Genre: Screwball Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Release Date: November 12th, 1936 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Richard Boleslawski Actors: Irene Dunne, Melvyn Douglas, Thomas Mitchell, Thurston Hall, Spring Byington

 


 

A

merica’s bestselling novel “The Sinner,” written by mysterious author Caroline Adams, is being serially published in the Lynnfield, Connecticut newspaper. But it’s spicy, shocking, and scandalous topics are not fit to print – according to the narrow-minded townsfolk’s opinions. The local literary circle gets together to protest, appalled by the bold, “civilized,” and brazen filth that challenges their reserved beliefs. One of the chief objectors is Theodora Lynn (Irene Dunne), a prominent member of one of the most respected families in Lynnfield, who is actually, secretly, Caroline Adams, the very same questionable author. But with a reasonably sheltered life, it’s hard to believe that Theodora could come up with so many deviously romantic stories, especially with so few of her own real romances to serve as inspiration, her girly sweetness, and her preference for isolation.

Uncle John (Robert Greig) aids Theodora with hording her money and keeping the secret, while Michael Grant (Melvyn Douglas), the unknowing artist who creates posters and covers for Adams’ books, always manages to pop up when he’s unwanted and uninvited. As Theodora attempts to act her part and live up to her “wild” writings, Michael is there to sweep her off her feet. But his charm quickly begins ruining her clean reputation in the conservative small town.

When Michael shows up to Lynnfield with the knowledge that Theodora is leading a double life, he scams his way into her home as a handyman, working for Theodora’s two elderly aunts. His arrival is annoying and his blackmail is less than realistic, but the premise is a great start for a screwball comedy – putting two very different people at odds and in close proximity (along with his dog and her cat). Giving them an opportunity to hash out their differences, to be at each other’s throats, and to gradually fall for one another is a suitable formula for romantic shenanigans. Unfortunately, Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas’ chemistry doesn’t always line up, but the dialogue is fluffy, silly, and fitting.

Michael is a carefree, rollicking spirit, constantly sticking his nose in other people’s business – and now it’s caught in a meat grinder.  As much as Michael wants to win over Theodora, who he originally pursues, he deplorably abandons her when she starts throwing the word “love” around too carelessly. But suddenly, as if by a retaliatory impulse, she’s not so naïve, turning the tables on him and twisting around his words as she learns his true feelings and motives. It’s an interesting series of emotional rejoinders, which appropriately muddies up their once lighthearted affair and thoroughly complicates their romance. The attitudes switch, the confidence swaps, the blackmail reverses, and their morals do an about-face; Theodora’s pent-up emotions are destined to explode and she’s inevitably going to go wild. Because of this, the characters themselves are typical, but the plot is original and difficult to predict. Ultimately, the scandals, disastrous press, negative headlines, and outraged citizens combine for a rollicking good time, which is, in a compensatory fashion, adorned with an absolutely spectacular final line of dialogue.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10