The Devil to Pay sounds like a melodrama. Well, it sounded like one to be even with the poster showing happy and smiling Ronald Coleman and Loretta Young. Right away I knew it was some kind of story having to do with a guy wanting a girl who has money when he has none. The film is about that but instead of a boring overdone melodrama it is a funny, entertaining comedy with great acting by the entire cast.
Willie Hale (Coleman) is auctioning off his household furniture to move back to England from South Africa. He has gambled all his money away on horses and cards. His father hears that Willie is back in England. He swears to kick his son out if he comes home. Susan, Willie’s sister, has her friend Dorothy Hope (Young) come over. Dorothy walks in just as the father is swearing to kick Willie out. Susan shows Dorothy a picture of her brother. Dorothy does not think Willie cannot be that bad the way he looks.
While walking home Willie buys a dog after becoming friends with it in a pet shop window. He did not want to he wanted to take is last twenty pounds and bet it on the horse races. After he buys the dog Willie goes to see a mistress of his named Mary (Myrna Loy). Mary is over the moon at seeing Willie again since they have not seen each other in all the years he has been in South Africa. His father complains the following morning that Willie has his trunks sent home but he his nowhere to be found. He still wants his son out of the house. Willie comes home as if nothing is the matter. He manages to smooth talk his father into staying at the house and his father gives him a hundred pounds. Dorothy comes over again and finally meets Willie. Susan and Dorothy are supposed to be going out somewhere for the afternoon together but Willie manages to convince them to spend the day with him at the races. They all have a great day going on the carnival rides and watching the race. Willie gave both Susan and Dorothy money to bet on a horse that was fifty to one. He takes them home after the race in his car. They do not realize that Dorothy’s fiancé Paul is a car behind them and sees her with Willie instead of where she was supposed to be.
When she gets home Dorothy does not lie to her father and Paul about where she was and who she was with. Her father and Paul are furious that she had refused to go out with Paul and instead spent the afternoon with Willie. Dorothy invites Willie to her party that night. She has a good time dancing with. She tells Paul that she really liked Willie and gives her ring back to him. Willie either does not realize that Dorothy really likes him or he does either way he leaves for Liverpool to see Mary.
Willie’s father brings him a letter from Dorothy’s father telling him to come and talk that afternoon. His father tells him to let Mr. Hope have it. Dorothy’s father says if Willie marries Dorothy they get none of his money. Willie seems to pretend to be upset just for show. He asks Dorothy to marry him. She says she will on the promise that he will no longer see Mary again. Mr. Hope has Willie followed in case he should see Mary again. Willie tries very hard to write Mary a letter but even after his talking to the dog he cannot seem to come up with a proper way to say goodbye to her. He decides to accidentally bump into her on the street. The plan almost works until Mary pushes him into the car and takes him back to her place. The private eye goes back to Mr. Hope and Dorothy with the news. Dorothy does not believe the guy and even calls Mary’s place. Mary has Willie answer the phone. Dorothy is crushed.
Willie does see Dorothy. She had her father put five thousand pounds in her account. She gives Willie the money thinking that was all he was going to marry her for. Willie takes the money and cashes the check. He goes around to his haunts asking if anyone wants money. He overhears that since Dorothy is no longer marrying Paul he is now poor his creditors are after him since they were counting on him coming into money. Mr. Hope hears that Mary is leaving for the South of France. He thinks Willie has brought him and Mary a ticket to there on Dorothy’s money. Not long after Dorothy receives a letter from Paul thanking her for the five thousand pounds.
Dorothy goes to Willie’s house. He is leaving for New Zealand with the plan to raise sheep. She fully plans on going with him but he is not happy with her and wants to go by himself. He knows she would not be happy being poor in the middle of nowhere. Dorothy does not care she just wants to be with him. Mr. Hale comes into the room with a note from Mr. Hope saying that if Willie stays in England he will give him the money to start his own farm. Willie laughs at the note and Dorothy does as well.
I liked the cast. Loretta Young was beautiful and perfect in her part. I found her pairing with Ronald Coleman a bit odd because Coleman was so much older than she was. Young was seventeen at the time and Coleman was in his late thirties. He was wonderful in this film he was snarky and funny and ridiculously charming. My favorite scenes are of him having conversations with the dog they are so funny. Myrna Loy is the whole reason I even found the film and sat through it. I should have known she would only be in it for like two seconds. This was the point in Loy’s career where she was crossing over from vamp to the other woman in dramas. She was young herself at this time at only twenty-five. Her character was not a bad woman. If you really look at her character she was the wronged woman. I liked her and Coleman together they looked good together.
The Devil to Pay is a good Pre-Code film. There are two lines that I absolutely loved because they were perfect Pre- Code lines. The first is when Willie is auctioning off his furniture. A woman he used to know buys his bed and replies “I always wanted you to sleep in it.” The second is when I believe his brother or his sister asks if maybe he has been in an accident when he does not come home the following morning. Willie’s father replies “Of course he’s met with an accident. I hope he marries her.” To me those lines alone are worth sitting through the film. The Devil to Pay is good to see at least once especially if you are a fan of either Ronald Coleman, Loretta Young, or Myrna Loy or all three if you are like me.