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"Wedding Present"

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"Wedding Present"

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Character's Name: Charlie
Release Date:  October 9, 1936
Director:  Richard Wallace
Studio:  Paramount Pictures
Running Time: 80 minutes

Cast: Joan Bennett (Monica "Rusty" Fleming), Cary Grant (Charlie Mason), George Bancroft (Stagg the City Editor), William Demerest (Smiles Benson), Conrad Nagel (Dodaker), Gene Lockhart (Archduke), Inez Courtney (Mary Lawson), Edward Brophy (Squinty), Purnell Pratt (Van Dorn), George Meeker (Blaker), Damon Ford (Haley)

- by Zoë Shaw
Charlie is a funloving scatterbrain who is suddenly thrust into a responsible editorial position at the paper where he works. He carries things too far, and causes his girlfriend, Rusty, to announce her engagement to Dodacker. He is not so much bothered about losing her as he is about what wedding present to give. He sends everything he can think of, and on the wedding day, drives up in an ambulance and kidnaps the bride!

- by Debbie Dunlap
You know the old saying, "It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it."  Usually this saying is said with tongue in cheek; meaning that you're actually thrilled to have to do it.  In the case of reviewing this movie, it WAS a tough job, but somebody HAD to do, and since this is my site, the job fell to me.  Now that I've taken two aspirin, perhaps I can muddle through.

"Wedding Present" was one of the last of the movies that I found.  I was eager to see it after thoroughly enjoying "Big Brown Eyes," also with the pairing of Joan Bennett and Cary.  Perhaps it is somewhat of a sequel to "Big Brown Eyes,"  I thought.  (I've often felt that "Holiday" & "Philadelphia Story" fit nicely together in that way.)  What I thought before watching "Wedding Present" and what I thought after were two entirely different realities!

Disjointed.  There are characters introduced and discarded like a bad poker hand.  There are circumstances created and abandoned like a tornado scatters anything and everything in its path.    Emotions run the gamut.  High-handed highjinks, angry outbursts, stuffed shirts and drunken devilry.  Who can follow it all?!

Cary is Charlie the madcap newspaperman.  Joan is Rusty, Charlie's unconventional sidekick.  Together they bedevil the city editor and bring in the big stories using every unconventional method possible.  Charlie and Rusty scorn convention & ridicule those who enforce it, namely, the city editor. 

However, under Rusty's unconventional facade, lies the heart of a girl who just wishes her man would settle down for just a day and marry her nice and proper.  Charlie can't, won't, doesn't. 

While Rusty is on vacation, Charlie is promoted to city editor.  Rusty returns to find Charlie conventional and tyrannical in his new position, the very image of what the two had always despised.   The unconventional girl who longed for a conventional wedding, finds this straight-laced Charlie an unpleasant prospect and packs her bags permanently for New York.

When the owner of the newspaper commends Charlie for exemplary service, Charlie recognizes himself for the chump he has become and tosses all away to follow his true love.  Unfortunately, Rusty, now engaged to a boring, bookish fellow, refuses Charlie's advances.  

On the eve of Rusty's wedding, Charlie, crying in his beer and wishing the best for his girl, drunkenly plans the perfect wedding present for Rusty.  He calls in every ambulance, fire truck, policeman, serviceman, and even a hearse for a grand false alarm at the home of Rusty's fiancée.   The newspaper woman in Rusty reacts with delight to the action, the heart of the woman in love sees clearly that what she really wanted all along was Charlie just the way he always was.  They ride off into the sunset ... seated on the top of an ambulance headed for the insane asylum.

VARIETY Film Review - November 25, 1936
- by "Odec"
- submitted by Barry Martin
 It takes the final reel to save this one from developing into a complete void of entertainment.  But even that final reel hasn't enough wallop to put 'Wedding Present' in the running for top position in a dual setup.  About the only persons who give the impression that they feel they've really got something in 'Present' are Cary Grant and Joan Bennett.  They try hard, but the combination of story, direction and whatnot is pretty much against them.  

Paul Gallico must have founded the yarn on the fabled antics of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; only in this case he's mixed the sexes.  His screwball star reporters, as played by Miss Bennett and Grant, are not only pitched in far-fetched concepts of the craft but they're loaded down with so many and frequent shifts of mood that the task of following them is made no easy one for the average fan.  When in the latter phase of the film the pace picks up perceptibly and the proceedings take on a bona fide air of farce there's lots of cause for chuckles.

First couple of reels are devoted to showing how dizzy but at the same time brilliant this news-hounding twosome can be.  Next two reveal Grant going city editor, serious and stuffshirt, with the ensuing footage expatiating on his reformation, pursuit of the girl and concoction of a nightmarish gag which wins her back.  Goof as is the behavior of this twosome the real mitt for travesty goes to the director's idea of how boys comport themselves around a city room.  

Practical-joker Grant gets the job of city ed after he has driven his predecessor, George Bancroft, to hoarseness and resignation.  Grant simonlegrees the city room crew and when he resents the attempt of the girl to deflate him she quits the job and goes to New York.  He, out of loneliness, walks himself soon after and when he gets to New York Grant finds that the girl had engaged herself to a writer of inspiration books, Conrad Nagel.  She spurns Grant's reconciliation approaches and the reporter, recalling the girl's weakness for fires and other like excitements, pulls out the town's various emergency vehicles and yeomen, including firemen and cops; all of which turns the trick.  The fadeout scene has the twosome in a clinch on the roof of a pickup-wagon for the psychopathic ward.

William Demarest, Gene Lockhart and Edward Brophy do well in helping to make comedy, while Nagel makes the most of his straight role.  With Demarest it's the part of a gang leader who's trying hard to pay off a debt to Grant.  Brophy chalks up more than one laugh as the punchdrunk mugg who obeys the boss' orders literally.  

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - November 19, 1936
- by B.R.C.
- submitted by Barry Martin
Paul Gallico's magazine story about the newspaper reporter who decided to give his sob-sister girl friend a four-alarm fire to commemorate her wedding to another man was perhaps not exactly art, but it was a masterpiece compared to the film version which bears the same title ("Wedding Present") and is now on view at the new Criterion Theatre. In picturizing his people, Mr. Gallico, who is also responsible for the screen story, makes them seem even more painfully inventions for the sake of a smash climax than they did on the printed page.

The climax, of course - the only really substantial part of the yarn - has its noisily amusing features. Cary Grant is the reporter who piles up all the lovely apparatus over which Mr. Gallico waxed so lyrical in his story - the ambulances, emergency trucks, police radio cars, etc. - under Joan Bennett's window, and touches her heart so effectively with this unique serenade that she can no longer refuse to marry him. George Bancroft, Conrad Nagel and Gene Lockhart are the principal abetting members of the cast.  

- by Kathy Fox
WEDDING PRESENT is Cary Grant's 13th film and his second with Joan Bennett, that being BIG BROWN EYES also in 1936.  This is a little, cutesy film, with Grant playing Charlie Mason and Bennett playing his girlfriend, Rusty.  They are newspaper people and are in love, but Charlie is quite the prankster.  Charlie and Rusty have a falling out and Charlie decides to win her back once she has announced her marriage to a dull writer, Mr. Dodacker.  Rusty loves excitement and so Charlie, when drunk, calls up the fire departments, police squads and ambulances to get her attention and win her back.  Grant was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Paramount and wanted to choose his own films, but they refused since he was still not a major star.  When negotiations were going on, Columbia approached Grant to make his next film, WHEN YOU'RE IN LOVE, a much better movie, with opera singer, Grace Moore. 

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