Saturday, September 15, 2012

Maid's Night Out (1936)

Maid’s Night Out is a classic film I am sure many have not heard of unless they are fans of Joan Fontaine. It is a mistaken identity plot which if you follow this blog enough you will know I hate with a passion. Very rarely do I think a mistaken identity plot works and this is one of those rare times. The mistaken identities go both ways in this romantic screwball comedy.
            Bill Norman (Allen Lane) is a fish expert. He is talking to a fish peddler on the side of a road about all the different kinds of fish the peddler is selling. The peddler goes to move his cart when suddenly a car comes tearing around the corner and knocks into the peddler’s cart. Bill manages to get the driver’s information so they can settle the matter. A woman is in the passenger seat. She does not want to talk to Bill she just wants to get out. When the car goes to pull away she throws a fish at Bill.
            Back at his house, Bill has all kinds of tanks full of fish. He tells his father he wants to go to the South Seas to study tropical fish. His father absolutely refuses he wants Bill to join his milk delivering business. At night Bill goes to sneak out of the house on the yacht but his father catches him. The father makes a bet with Bill that if Bill works for a month at the business and does not make any mistakes and shows up on time he will let him have the yacht if not he simply cannot go to the South Seas.
            The first day of work starts off without a problem. Bill’s first house he delivers to belongs to a young woman who is completely ready to hit on him. The next house he just so happens to be the girl from the car who hit the fish peddler’s cart. Her name is Sheila (Joan Fontaine) and when Bill sees her she has a maid’s cap on and is brushing her coat. Bill thinks she is the maid and lets go right on believing so. He ribs her a bit and on his way out and tells her he will be there to pick her up on Thursday at two o’clock. She throws the brush at him and he sends it back to her. When Sheila goes to send it back to him she winds up hitting her boyfriend (the driver of the car) Wally.
            Shelia’s mother Mrs. Harrison (Hedda Hopper) really wants her to marry Wally since he has money. She does not want to marry Wally and tells her mother to stop living above their means. Wally comes in like a hurt animal with a bruise on his head. He tells everyone that he was attacked and when he pulls out the brush all Sheila can do is laugh hysterically.

            On Thursday Shelia nearly forgets her date. She had planned to go with her mother and Wally to an orphanage to play with the children. She goes outside to wave the milk truck away but Bill takes it as if she is waving to him saying hello. Bill gets out of the truck and luckily a bus comes by they jump on the bus before her mother can see who she was with. Bill and Shelia spend a nice day at the boardwalk walking around and even riding a rollercoaster three times.
            A few weeks later, Mr. Norman hears that his son is in love with a servant girl. He asks his son about this situation and Bill says yes he is and he is planning on turning the yacht trip into a honeymoon as well. Mr. Norman wants to hear nothing of it and says he is taking his cousin to the charity dance that week. Wally tells Mrs. Harrison that he wants to marry Sheila and asks for her help. Mrs. Harrison says the only way Sheila will listen to her is if she cries. Wally tries to get her to cry but it does not work so she has the maid grab a handkerchief with an onion in it. When Sheila comes in Mrs. Harrison puts on the waterworks. She breaks her meeting with Bill and goes to the charity dance with Wally and her mother.
            At the dance Bill is with his cousin Adele. He sees Sheila with Wally. They both get mad at each other for being with someone else and Bill even punches Wally in the face after he says he and Sheila are engaged. Bill gets thrown out and is ready to leave on a milk truck in the alley. Adele comes out to tell him she heard Sheila say that she is not engaged to Wally. Bill wants to go to her but Sheila and her mother already left so Bill has his friend Hogan in the truck drive him over to Sheila’s.
            Sheila meanwhile is having a fit in her room. She is really upset about how the evening went and just wants to be alone. Bill gets to her house and starts calling to her but she does not want to see him. Wally calls the police to say there is a lunatic outside yelling. When the police officer arrives Bill is climbing a ladder up to Sheila’s room. The police officer arrests him. Mr. Norman just laughs when he hears his son is in jail and says to lock him up.
            Hogan climbs into Sheila’s room to tell him what happened to Bill. The maid in the next room hears voices and goes to Sheila’s room to see if anything is wrong. Sheila obviously says no and she leaves with Hogan to help Bill. The maid opens the door to check on Sheila and she sees over the balcony that Sheila is going into a milk truck in the middle of the night with a strange man.
            Once the maid calls for help the film gets silly and really funny. I am hoping you know the ending is all kinds of happy and cute and the whole issue with Bill and Sheila gets resolved and they live happily ever after.
            Joan Fontaine gets nothing but praise from me. I loved her from beginning to end she was so hilarious and ridiculously adorable. Fontaine’s career was really just starting out this was her seventh film. I love watching her early films because she was so young when she started. In this film Fontaine was twenty-one (I do not know why I am always fascinated with her age in her films. I think it stems from when I first saw her in Rebecca and I found she was twenty-three and not that much older than me at the time I thought it was incredible how much talent she had for her age) you can see that she would go on to be a good actress. After having seen Fontaine in so many other films including comedies she had a great range for an actress. The more I see of the comedies the more I like her in those better than her dramas. I also have to mention that besides from being an adorably twenty-one year old she looked beautiful in her suit and hat in the scene where Bill and Sheila head to the beach. Her face was just beautiful.
            This was Hedda Hopper’s last film she made before she became the famed Hollywood gossip columnist (not sure if she had already started her column by then so I could be wrong but I am definitely sure this was her last film). I liked her in this film. I have seen her in bit parts in other films. Hopper was not a bad actress. 
            Maid’s Night Out was so much fun to sit through. If this ever comes out on DVD I will be owning it. Maid’s Night Out is a light silly screwball comedy where you do not have to listen at all. I wound up really liking the mistaken identity plot because both the leads were not being true about who they really were. I liked how they loved each other and thought the other did not come from a wealthy family. I needed this type of film after working and doing homework all day. If TCM ever airs Maid’s Night Out again or you can find (which if you do let me know!) absolutely watch it and have a good time.