Even after numbering over 8000 movies as seen I still make the mistake of pigeon holing certain films based on a quick glance of who is in them. Guilty as charged this time out. I assumed with a title like this Archie Mayo directed effort from Warner’s starring Leslie Howard and Bette Davis that It’s Love I’m After was sure to be a first class weeper and wasn’t exactly high on my priority list.
It turns out I should have caught this screwball comedy years ago and not just because Olivia de Havilland always seems to melt my heart with those big expressive eyes of hers. The Orry-Kelly costume designs only add to her beauty. Watching Robin Hood repeatedly as a child can do that to you where Olivia concerned.
Leslie Howard stars as Basil Underwood, star of the stage. He’s currently performing Romeo and Juliet with Bette as his leading lady. Leading lady both on stage and off. Theirs is a stormy on again off again relationship with plenty of insults tossed about between their lines on the stage.
Sitting in the balcony night after night and captivated by the handsome leading man is Miss Olivia. She can’t be sure her heart has been captured by the actor or the Romeo he plays. This doesn’t sit well with her fiancé Patric Knowles. Once Olivia makes her presence known to Howard and Bette sees the young beauty leaving his dressing room the screwball antics are about to take off.
Knowles goes to Howard and explains his girl has become infatuated with his persona and demands he help turn her attentions back towards Knowles himself. Howard owes the Knowles family a favor and crashes the family mansion over seen by George Barbier as Olivia’s father. The plot hasn’t been explained to Bette, the tigress waiting at the altar.
Howard relishes the role of the obnoxious cad and goes about throwing insults and demands to all those within ear shot. He’s also brought along his man servant played with quick wit by Eric Blore. His and Howard’s banter has great timing throughout the proceedings as Blore tries to keep Howard on the straight and narrow. Problem’s arise when Howard begins to see just how beautiful and devoted Olivia’s attentions towards him turn out to be.
The more nasty Howard gets the more Olivia seems to love his free spirit and honesty. Things are backfiring and Knowles lays Howard out with a well placed right hook. Both Howard and Knowles are going to find more trouble than they bargained for when the woman scorned turns up. Nobody does the woman scorned better than Bette Davis!
The laughs are plentiful under the direction of Archie Mayo. Mayo was one of the Warner’s studios prolific house directors helming many titles from the mid to late thirties including Bette and Leslie in The Petrified Forest just the previous year.
There’s a great line that jumped at me I am surprised the straight laced “code” allowed to get through to the final print. “Keyholes are educational.” This from Bonita Granville (Nancy Drew)as Olivia’s younger sister after she spies on Howard and Olivia beyond the door.
Trivia wise there are plenty of connections including Olivia and Bette whose careers overlapped all the way into 1964 when they starred opposite each other in Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte. Olivia would also star with Howard in Gone With the Wind along with Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.
Speaking of Gable there is a great exchange here between Olivia and Howard when she points out, “I was in love with Clark Gable last year, and if I can get over him, it’s a cinch I can get over you. ” Howards response, “Who’s Clark Gable?” Love it!
If you haven’t caught this one check out TCM as it does play occasionally and is sure to be a fun find if you already haven’t seen it.