I was completely surprised and thoroughly charmed by Leslie Howard’s performance in this comic gem.
I loved, loved, loved this movie but I’m a bit hesitant to gush on and on about it because the chances are slim to none that you’ll be able to see it. Unavailable on home video, I happened to catch it by accident–I set the DVR to tape a Bette Davis movie and came away watching a terrific Leslie Howard comedy.
Yeah, Bette’s in it, playing Joyce Arden, half of a temperamental on-again-off-again theatrical couple, but Leslie Howard owns the film as Basil Underwood, a self-important stage actor with a love-sick fan named Marcia West (Olivia de Havilland.) Marcia’s infatuation feeds Basil’s ego, but neither Joyce nor Marcia’s fiance Henry find it particularly amusing. In a spectacularly misguided attempt to win back his girl, Henry suggests that Basil invite himself out to the West family home for the weekend, making himself such a self-important nuisance that she’ll come to her senses.
Basil heads out to the country and gives his finest performance, an over-the-top version of himself. The scene where Basil and his valet (Eric Blore) barge in on the stuffy blue bloods in the wee hours of the morning is a hoot and one of many great comic bits between Howard and Blore.
If Howard owns the film, Eric Blore threatens to steal it every time he’s on screen. The banter between these two is terrific, with the valet hilariously failing to talk his employer out of many a sticky situation.
A fun side note–two years after It’s Love I’m After, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland reunited as lovers in Gone With the Wind. It’s interesting to see their changed dynamic in this film, where de Havilland is playing the love-struck Scarlet O’Hara role and Howard is far more charismatic than Ashley Wilkes ever was. There’s also a funny Clark Gable joke made even more hilarious by a then unknown GWTW reference. [****1/2 out of 5]