“The first Spring in May is in the Devil’s Pay”
Many films have been made where the events take place over a span of a day. And films about a family and their issues have been made to no end throughout the history of cinema. Of all the classic comedy films I have seen that have the theme of a family with issues Call It a Day is one of the best. I think it is an underrated classic comedy.
The Hilton family and their servants wake up to a nice sunny warm day in their London town. The three children, Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), Martin, and Ann, all fight to use the bathroom. Their parents, Roger and Dorothy, are still in bed a few more minutes before the maid comes in with their morning tea. Each child has their issue: Catherine is miserable over something and wants to be alone, Martin wants to “motor the Continent” which Roger will not allow, and Ann has a morbid interest in the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
While out at the grocery store, Dorothy and a man accidentally bump into each other and drop their bags. The man is immediately taken with Dorothy he just stares at her barely saying anything. Dorothy goes to see Roger at his office. She tells her husband she is worried about Catherine wanting to be alone and the fact that she is having her portrait painted by an artist named Paul Francis. Roger is not worried and reassuringly tells his wife Paul is a saint. Meanwhile Paul’s saintly patience is wearing thin. Catherine keeps moving and Paul has to keep telling her to keep still. Catherine has a fit over something gets up and throws the shawl Paul was making her wear off. Paul’s wife Ethel is in the room with them. She calms Catherine down and says she will be back with some tea. Paul begs her not to leave he does not want to be left alone with Catherine. Ethel leaves and as soon as she does Catherine is all over Paul trying to tell him she loves him and trying to convince him he does not love his wife. Her plan almost works until they hear Ethel coming up the steps.
Dorothy’s friend Muriel (Alice Brady) takes Dorothy to her brother Frank’s apartment. They wait a long time for Frank to come back from wherever he is. When Frank enters the room Dorothy realizes he is the man she ran into that morning at the store. Muriel leaves Dorothy alone with Frank which makes Dorothy very uncomfortable. The two eventually have a nice time over tea talking. Dorothy invites Frank over for dinner that night since he is alone and she wants him to meet her family.
Roger has been going over the finances of an actress named Beatrice Gwynn. The two are in his office alone and she puts the moves on him with all her might. Beatrice eventually convinces Roger to come to her place that to discuss the money she is missing.
No one in the family stays home for dinner. Catherine thinks she will be meeting Paul alone at a park, Ann has gone to see a film about Rossetti, and Martin has become infatuated with the girl next door who nicely invited him to dinner at her house. Dorothy is left alone with Frank. Frank tells Dorothy he wants her to leave her husband and kids and marry him. He believes that they are meant to be together.
By bedtime everything that everyone was struggling with through the day has worked out. Well almost everything, Catherine still feels a bit miserable. Dorothy and Roger had a bit of a row over Frank and Beatrice but they make up since they have been married for so long. Martin since meeting the girl next door no longer wants to go “motoring on the continent.” Ann is still madly in love with Rossetti.
Olivia de Havilland gets top billing but she is barely in the film. She most likely got top billing because of how Successful Captain Blood was the year before. Whatever scenes she did have thought were hilarious. De Havilland was so fantastic in her comedies she was so funny. The film really belongs to Ian Hunter and Frieda Inescourt as Roger and Dorothy. They were so good together in their scenes especially at the end. Alice Brady as Muriel was a panic. She was perfect at playing flighty society ladies. I was laughing at all her scenes. Roland Young plays Frank. I have to admit he kind of creeped me out a bit in this.
Call It a Day was very good. I liked the story of this family who on a nice spring day goes a little off the deep end. I really enjoyed how the whole family was not blown out of proportion. To me it was like watching a day in my crazy house minus mine being an upper class British family, my father being a lawyer, me being in love with a painter either from this era or two centuries ago, and a few other things. Call It a Day is not the first classic comedy or Olivia de Havilland film I would recommend but it is one that if you happen to come across take the time to see it.