Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday's Film Adaption: Turnabout by Thorne Smith

Sally Willows envied her adman husban his glamorous work; Tim Willows felt Sally lived in ease and luxury while he was sweating to pay the bills. So an ill-tempered minor god, tired of their bickering, worked a modest miracle...

...and Sally Willows, no occupying her husband's body, experienced the full horrors of the Nationwide Advertising Agency, while Tim, now outwardly Sally, dealt with the amourous advances of a local Lothario.

It was a toss-up whether Sally/Tim's well-earned dismissal or Tim/Sally's bizarre attempt at murder was more spectacular - but both seemed insignificant when Tim found he was pregnant!

Bickering husband and wife Tim and Sally Willows mutter a few angry words to a statue of Buddha and wind up living each other's life. One of several "naughty" screwball comedies based on the works of Thorne Smith (of Topper fame), Hal Roach's Turnabout stars Carole Landis and John Hubbard as unhappily married couple Sally and Tim Willows. Bored with her humdrum existence, Sally spends most of her time figuring out ways of spending her husband's money, while hard-working Tim plots and plans to "step out" on the Missus in the company of his business associates Manning (Adolphe Menjou) and Clare (William Gargan). All of this changes when an effigy representing an Oriental deity comes to life and exchanges Sally and Tim's personalities. As a result, Sally awakens with a deep voice and dons Tim's business suit, while Tim speaks in a falsetto and favors Sally's frilly frocks. The complications ensuing from this role-reversal are much better seen than described, while the film's hilarious denouement was tipped by United Artists' ad campaign, which heralded that "The man's had a baby instead of the lady." Though not nearly as risque as it seemed to be back in 1940, Turnabout is full of wonderful vignettes, including a priceless bit involving veteran character actor Franklin Pangborn.

Release dates: 17 May 1940
Running time: 83 minutes
Adolphe Menjou as Phil Manning
Carole Landis as Sally Willows
John Hubbard as Tim Willows
William Gargan as Joel Clare
Verree Teasdale as Laura Bannister
Mary Astor as Marion Manning
Donald Meek as Henry - the Valet
Joyce Compton as Irene Clare
Inez Courtney as Miss Edwards
Franklin Pangborn as Mr. Alan Pingboom
Marjorie Main as Nora - the Cook
Berton Churchill as Julian Marlowe
Margaret Roach as Dixie Gale
Ray Turner as Mose
Norman Budd as Jimmy
Polly Ann Young as Miss Gertie Twill
Eleanor Riley as Lorraine
Murray Alper as Doc - the Masseur
Miki Morita as Ito
Yolande Donlan as Marie - the Maid
Georges Renavent as Mr. Ram

Sally Willows: Now listen to me, Tim Willows, the situation with this dog of yours has gone entirely too far. He goes to a kennel tomorrow or I go!
Tim Willows: Darling, you wouldn't have much fun in a kennel.

Henry: I'm very, very nervous about the whole thing. She wants to climb that flagpole and put up this aerial.
Marie: And she wants us to help?
Henry: Yes, and I really think she ought to have a net under her.
Nora: She ought to have a net *over* her if you ask me.

I first saw this just a few weeks ago on Turner Classic Movies and absolutely loved it.  A true classic screwball comedy.  I can't say I like it as well as the Topper films that are also based on Thorne Smith novels but it's very close.  The acting, the writing, it may all seem quite mellow by today's standards but in my opinion you really can't judge films of yesteryear by today's standards.  You have to look at them from the time they were released and I can imagine how this would have ruffled some feathers in it's day.  If you love old time movies and great comedy then this is definitely something you should check out.  I haven't read the original book but it's definitely going on my TBR list.


Author Bio:
James Thorne Smith, Jr. was an American writer of humorous supernatural fantasy fiction under the byline Thorne Smith. He is best known today for the two Topper novels, comic fantasy fiction involving sex, much drinking and supernatural transformations. With racy illustrations, these sold millions of copies in the 1930s and were equally popular in paperbacks of the 1950s.

Smith was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of a Navy commodore and attended Dartmouth College. Following hungry years in Greenwich Village, working part-time as an advertising agent, Smith achieved meteoric success with the publication of Topper in 1926. He was an early resident of Free Acres, a social experimental community developed by Bolton Hall according to the economic principles of Henry George in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. He died of a heart attack in 1934 while vacationing in Florida.




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