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Customer Review

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The secret millionaire, 5 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Devil & Miss Jones [VHS] [1941] (VHS Tape)
Charles Coburn (John Merrick) is so rich that he doesn't remember half of what he owns. The staff at his department store "Neelys" are taking to the streets because of their working conditions and have hanged an effigy of him outside the shop. They don't know what he looks like so they make something up. Anyway, Coburn is furious about this and goes undercover into his store posing as a shoe salesman with the intent of getting the names of trouble-makers and flushing them out. He meets his team of Jean Arthur (Mary) and Spring Byington (Elizabeth), his new 'boss' Edmund Gwenn (Hooper) and it is not long before he is introduced to the chief trouble-maker, Robert Cummings (Joe), an ex-employee who has got together a list of 400 names that will support him in the fight against the corporate world. Cummings is Arthur's boyfriend. Coburn gets his information but he hadn't counted on that timeless cure for everything......love......

It is obvious what is going to happen in this film but that doesn't matter coz it's an enjoyable journey getting there. It's a comedy that is funny and this is entirely down to the behaviour and reactions of the main character as played by Charles Coburn. This is completely HIS film and it's ludicrous that he is billed 3rd, behind Jean Arthur who has that slightly unpalatable voice and Robert Cummings who is unconvincing as a rabble-rouser. In fact, the immediate supporting cast are all a bunch of wet fishes, and that includes Spring Byington. Edmund Gwenn is good as are Coburn's team of arse-licking advisers and watch for a small role played by Florence Bates as a store shopper. I didn't know that mystery shopping was being carried out in those days. It seems the notion of "Big Brother is watching you" has been around for quite some time.

Practically all of Coburn's scenes will have you laughing. Examples include his resentment of having to take orders from Gwenn and the moment when he answers back towards the end of the film. We also have a funny scene at the end where he sits on the side of the agitators to confront his own sycophants about the running of the store. They are unaware that he has gone undercover and agree to his every word to the amazement of all those present.

The film is a bit soppy with the love themes but the dialogue delivery and reaction shots of Coburn are definitely very funny. The ending is rushed and there are plot holes, such as why on earth would Jean Arthur take such an interest in Coburn's character, and how has Byington's aversion to wealthy men suddenly disappeared...but so what. It would have been better to end on a final, satisfying shot of Edmund Gwenn getting his come-uppance, but the film is entertaining and better than I had expected.
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Location: St. Annes, UK

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