(2 of 3)
Mona Freeman, a dreadful little adolescent patriot, can never find enough to do for the "war effort." She and her girl friends want to wire Washington ("We insist on our right to be drafted"); she gets Papa Edward Arnold bled white at the blood bank, without bothering to consult him first. Without bothering to consult elder sister Joan Caulfield she launches a letter-writing campaign to an unknown soldier (William Holden), signing sister's name to the letters, and sending photographs that fill Mr. Holden with every romantic hope in the book. Unexpectedly Holden turns up, madly in love and in a rush to marry the girl. The rest of the picture, a galloping complication of cooked-up farce and moderately genuine fun, shows how embattled Miss Caulfield tries to handle the situation without breaking the soldier's heart.
As is usual when such artificialities run amok, Big Sister's efforts involve a good deal of heartlessness and stupidity; it is far too clear that she postpones the bad news chiefly to keep the story spinning. However, Dear Ruth is presented with a kind of Broadway crispness.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue (Monogram) that Victor Moore, a lovable old bum, sneaked into a millionaire's boarded-up mansion, by way of the coal chute, to spend his customary sedate, solitary winter disguised as a capitalist. But it also happened that there was a housing shortage that year, and the old fellow couldn't resist sharing his cavernous blessings with a homeless veteran (Don DeFore), who brought along some fellow veterans and their families.
The millionaire's rebellious daughter (Gale Storm) turns up, to provide love interest for the bachelor veteran; and in due time the owner himself (Charles Ruggles) and his divorced wife (Ann Harding) also join the menage, disguised as elderly tramps, just to keep the plot boiling. Also, the plot has something to do with the veterans' effort to start a housing project of their own; Mr. Ruggles' heartless schemes to foil them; Mr. Moore's blissful ignorance of the identity of the mansion's owners; his innocent efforts to warm up a romance between them. In the long run the sour millionaire is sweetened up, all disguises are cast off, and everybody is happy, including the audience.
Most plausible explanations for the picture's success are: 1) the presence of Victor Moore, past master of creaky charm and pathos; 2) a show as generally oldfashioned, in a harmless way, as a 1910 mail-order play for amateurs; 3) the fact that now, as in 1910, a producer cannot go wrong with a mass audience if he serves up a whiff of comedy and a whirlwind of hokum.
Copacabana (United Artists) will gratify such admirers of Groucho Marx as have always wanted to see the face behind the black-paint smear of mustache. This time Groucho wears a smaller, neater, more realistic brush, made of crepe hair. As was predictable, the face that launched a thousand quips is a keen one, as adaptable to drama as to comedy, should Groucho ever feel the urge to go both smooth-faced and serious. In Copacabana Groucho goes light on his eyebrows, and does without his brothers altogether. The result is not so wildly zany as the best Marx brothers collaborations, nor is it designed to be. But it is an unpretentiously entertaining movie.