“That adorable young thing is an unholy terror on wheels. There's nothing in the world more deadly than innocence on the manhunt!”
Theodora Goes Wild is one of the reasons why I love 1930s Screwball Comedy and one of the millions of reasons why Irene Dunne is one of the best actresses to have ever graced Hollywood.
The small town of Lynnfield is shocked to read sections of a scandalous new book called “The Sinner” by a woman named Caroline Adams in their local newspaper. The literary club, full of old gossipy women with nothing better to do, protest the paper from printing the story. The town’s scions are Theodora Lynn (Dunne) and her aunts Mary and Elsie are three of the women protesting the book. But there is a bit of hesitation and disbelief in what she is saying on Theodora’s face. The paper eventually puts a stop to the printing of the book.
Jed Waterbury, the publisher of “The Sinner”, sits in his office all happy over the success of the book. His secretary calls him to let him know Ms. Adams has arrived. When he opens the door we get our first glimpse of the notorious Caroline Adams…. Ms. Adams is Theodora Lynn!!! Theodora was the one who wrote the book under the penname. No one besides her publisher and her Uncle John who left his life in Lynnfield and went to live in New York City know that she is Caroline Adams. Theodora is so paranoid about being found out to be the author that she refuses to go on book signings or really promote her book. Jed’s wife Ethel is just dying to meet Caroline Adams so he has her come by the office. Theodora is livid but it is too late for her to be really mad because when Ethel comes to the office the woman does not let her get out of going out to dinner with them.
Also tagging along and very unwelcome is Michael Grant (Melvyn Douglas) the book’s illustrator. At dinner Theodora loosens up and has a few drinks. Ethel can no longer keep up so Jed takes her home and writer and illustrator are left alone for the night. Michael takes Theodora back to his place but when he goes to get close to her and kiss her she flees the apartment in horror.
Theodora is now back in Lynnfield and back to her quiet, pure life living with her aunts. Standing outside leaning against their fence is a strange man whistling. The man is Michael; he found her papers with her real name and address on it and followed her to her home. Of course the aunts do not know who Michael is and they immediately do not like him. He pretends to be a gardener looking for work. Theodora takes him in along with a dog he just happened to pick up. The more Theodora gets to know Michael the more she likes him and the more he brings her out of her sheltered life. Finally one night Theodora tells her aunts and their literary club that she is Caroline Adams and that she loves Michael. She tells Michael that she loves him but the next day he is gone.
Now Theodora goes back to New York and does the same thing to Michael that he did to her because as it turns out Michael is in a stuck situation almost like she is. By the end of the film Theodora’s reputation in her town and in the City is all but gone but without her reputation she was able to do something nice for her friend.
I can do nothing but praise Irene Dunne. I do not know how the woman had the gas to keep going comically like she did. As soon as Theodora comes out of her shell Dunne just goes a mile a minute and does not let up. The more Theodora comes out of her shell and the crazier her life becomes the funnier the film becomes. Dunne was nominated for an Academy Award for this role and should have won without a problem but she was beaten out by the God-awful Luise Rainier for The Great Ziegfeld. Melvyn Douglas was just as silly as Dunne. I have never seen Douglas in a film before but right from the moment he comes on screen I just liked him a lot. The two of them were a great pair they worked so well together. The scene I liked them in is when Michael is driving Theodora and her aunts nuts by continuously whistling late into the night. She decides to get back at him by playing the piano as loud as she can so he can hear it from the guest house. She starts to sing a nice song while playing the piano and he stops whistling. But as soon as her song is done he turns right around and starts whistling the song. Another really good scene with them is when Theodora newly wild and uninhibited is talking to Michael in his apartment and she is playing his piano. Michael is really mad at her he is yelling at her and she is just all bubbly and happy. She gets up and Michael yells at her to stay at the piano and keep her hands on the keys (just trust me the scene is really funny).
Theodora Goes Wild is one of the greatest Screwball Comedy films to have ever been made. Everything about it was just perfect. The laughs do not let up for one moment and the acting by Dunne and Douglas is just incredible. The script is witty and hilarious and the direction is flawless. The story about a girl who wrote her book out of rebellion of what her town would not let her enjoy and let loose is great. How many times have you ever felt stuck where you are in your life and just wanted to rebel somehow? Theodora Lynn rebelled in an awesome way (or what I think is).
Suggested: ABSOLUTELY!!!! Watch Theodora Goes Wild any way you can. It is not available for individual sale but it is in a pack called Icons of Screwball Comedy Vol. 2.