Review: Small Town Girl (1936)

Janet Gaynor escapes her dull small town life when she marries a drunken playboy from Boston. A swell plan…until she learns he’s engaged to marry a snotty socialite.

What starts out as a light romantic comedy turns pretty serious, ’round about the time Bob Dakin (Robert Taylor) sobers up the morning after his impulsive marriage to a sweet local girl. A quickie annulment is out of the question, so Dakin decides he and Kay (Gaynor) will stay married for six months, after which he’ll divorce her and marry his now ex-fiance, Priscilla. (Strangely, she’s a woman who begins the movie looking old enough to be his mother and by the film’s end she looks like a drag queen.)

The charming, unusual premise quickly turns standard and a tad bit tedious. Kay has six months to win over her husband (she’s fallen in love with him of course) and though she begins to have a positive effect on his character, he still carries a torch for “Pris.” A lot of comic possibilities are wasted, as there doesn’t seem to be much humor or warmth between the two newlyweds as the months pass on.

While Gaynor is good in her role (despite the fact that she’s continually dressed like a clown), the film is predictable without being a whole lot of fun getting there, and the ending seems rushed and unsatisfying. [**1/2 out of 5]

4 thoughts on “Review: Small Town Girl (1936)

  1. You forgot to mention the innumerable scenes where Taylor races around in his car blind drunk–I felt like I was watching a scary Driver’s Ed film. Then, too, was the lovely bit where he shows up at the hospital to perform brain surgery, also while well-pickled.

  2. Oh yeah! How could I forget to mention that?
    Oh, oh, and the scene where the “newlyweds” are sitting near a bonfire on the rocky, moonlit cape and she’s staring at him lovingly while he describes how he put a steel plate in a little boy’s skull after the kid “blew half his head off” with his father’s gun. And something about how if you take a person’s intestines out, you can still feed them intravenously!
    It was these kinds of strange shifts in tone that really killed any comedy, let alone romance, in the picture.

  3. As another small town girl named Janet,who wore feed sack dresses as a child, a handsome drunken Robert Taylor would become a welcome distraction to get out of town. He sounds like an improvement over our local physician.

  4. I enjoyed watching Small Town Girl. The plot was simple, yet refreshing and any faults the film may have had were overshadowed to the point of unnoticeable by the extraordinary handsomeness of Robert Taylor. This was the first film I ever saw with RObert TAylor, and it was a PLEASURE. I’d watch it again an again too!

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