After all melodrama I sniffled through in the pair of Francis flicks I reviewed earlier this week, I needed something lighter, and I got it with The Feminine Touch (1941). Francis takes a supporting role in this comedy about jealousy in romantic relationships now available on DVD from Warner Archive.
Don Ameche stars as a college professor who has been burning the midnight oil finishing his book, Jealousy and All Its Aspects and Universal Applications. As much as he seems to know about this disruptive emotion, he doesn't appear to feel it himself, much to the irritation of his wife (Rosalind Russell), who would like a bit more possessiveness in her man.
When Ameche's frustration with his university position drives him to quit, the pair takes off for New York to meet the publisher (Van Heflin) they hope will publish the now former professor's book. This pointy-bearded Don Juan and his sharp-witted assistant (Francis), give the couple a lot more field experience in what it is like living with the green-eyed monster.
The four are an amusing trio, though I always felt as if something wasn't quite working among them. Part of the problem is that Ameche,while very charming, is not nearly as dynamic as his costars. His chemistry with Russell is also a bit off, but then, I never thought he was brilliant in an onscreen pairing until he teamed up with Ralph Bellamy in Trading Places (1983).
Heflin charms everyone else off the screen, as he normally does, and Russell is full of her typical snap. Francis is more of a revelation, she is as beautiful and perfectly groomed as audiences expected of her, but backs that up with good timing and a light comedic touch.
|One of Ms. Kay's astonishing hats|
This is a solidly pleasing production: the costumes and sets are impeccable in that lush, MGM way and Francis and Russell get plenty of opportunities to look smashing in ridiculous hats that would destroy most ordinary women. The attempted seductions and misunderstandings can threaten to become tiring, but there's always a snappy line or a twist on convention that rescues the scenes that begin to flag.
After spending most of her career suffering in dramatic gowns, Francis seems to be enjoying jumping into a lighter role. She approaches her biting lines with gusto, seemingly less focused on suffering prettily, and relishing the chance to show off her comic chops. Though pre-code Kay will always be my favorite, her maturity here is appealing.
Though The Feminine Touch is often more amusing that funny, the last sequence is a hilarious bit of slapstick that is both original and incredibly silly, and elevates all that came before. It's a bright finale for an unusual, and essentially enjoyable comedy.
Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. This is a Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVD. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.