If You Could Only Cook (1935)
There’s a lovely innocence to the early days of the screwball comedy and once again it’s Jean Arthur that best personifies the leading lady of both this film and the genre in general.
From Columbia and Harry Cohn comes this likable tale of Herbert Marshall on his way to the altar, marrying a woman who doesn’t excite him. It’s a marriage of convenience. She comes from a notable family and he is a self made man of wealth from the wrong side of the tracks. Marshall has made his fortune in the automobile industry and is the owner of the Buchanan Motor Company. He’s looking for excitement and his current position at the office and an ill fated marriage awaiting him has him looking rather depressed.
While taking a seat on a local park bench, Marshall finds himself next to Miss Arthur. She pegs Marshall being out of work and in need of a job. Just like her. While nosing through the want ads, she finds a possible job placement for a cook and a butler. A perfect set up for two out of work people. Marshall tags along and the duo find themselves interviewing for the positions in the home of gangster Leo Carrillo and his henchman Lionel Stander.
Marshall continually gets dragged in a bit deeper when they land the jobs. Since they posed as a married couple, they’ll have to figure out the sleeping arrangements next when shown to their shared accommodations. Injecting a humorous scene into the film, Marshall sneaks home through the night to get some pointers on a butler’s proper etiquette from his own gentleman’s gentleman.
Romance is in the air as the two carry out their duties around the swank home of Carillo. Problems surface when Carillo takes a liking to Jean and Marshall is a bit torn between playing her husband, which he’s not and defending her honor. The plot will turn itself on it’s ear when Marshall shares some diagrams of a new car design he has been working on with Arthur who thinks they show a lot of promise. Unbeknownst to him, she takes them to his own car company in the hopes that he’ll be discovered.
You can just imagine the zany half hour that follows when the drawings are thought stolen and Marshall’s real identity being exposed to Arthur. Might I add, comedy ensues.
Carillo and Stander get involved in the madcap race near the end. Originally Carillo wants the playboy Marshall “knocked off” but after hearing pleas from Arthur changes his orders to a line I love. “The rub out is off. It’s gonna be a grab.” Stander carries out the order which leads to a very funny clip with Matt McHugh and Stander in the back of a honeymoon getaway car. That voice of Lionel’s is such a cinema treasure.
What’s not to like when Jean Arthur shares the screen with Herbert Marshall? I can’t think of anything. This is a fun filled seventy minutes that might be known more for some Harry Cohn shenanigans then any other reason. The film was directed by William A. Seiter but according to research, was promoted overseas as being produced by Frank Capra to cash in on the Capra style. Capra was apparently not amused and threats and clash of tempers followed suit. I’m never surprised reading anything that Harry Cohn attempts to put over on anyone.
This comical delight is available as part of the Screwball Comedy Collections put out by Columbia.