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A former circus acrobat, semi-pro baseball player, vaudevillian, burlesque comic and Broadway star, Joe E. Brown became one of the favorite comedians of the early talkie period, and one of Warner Bros.' top moneymakers. Ginger Rogers had arrived in Hollywood in 1930, working first at Paramount, then at Path. By 1932, she was dating Warner Bros. director Mervyn LeRoy, who suggested her as Brown's love interest in The Tenderfoot (1932). In her autobiography, Rogers recalled Brown's kindness to her. "Considerate, friendly, kind and thoughtful, he was everything you could wish for in a colleague. Though he was the star, he took the time to make sure I was okay and kept thinking of ways to turn my face to the camera." So she was delighted to work with him again a few months later in You Said a Mouthful (1932), and found the experience equally gratifying.
In You Said a Mouthful, Brown plays meek office clerk Joe Holt, who's the butt of office jokes about the unsinkable swimsuit he's invented. He's mistaken for a championship swimmer, also named Joe Holt, by heiress Rogers, and ends up competing in a marathon swimming race. It's a typical slapstick Brown vehicle, and pleased his fans and critics alike. Even Mordaunt Hall of the august New York Times warmed to the film, saying it "may be both a trifle too boisterous and slow at times, but it has several genuinely funny sequences and occasional flashes of originality...Joe E. Brown does quite well with this ludicrous role. Ginger Rogers is lively as Alice Brandon." Marguerite Tazelaar of the New York Herald Tribune also had kind words for Rogers: "Ginger Rogers strikes just the right note in her supporting role, giving her ingnue the touch of sophistication and playful spoofing desirable." The World-Telegram critic was more succinct: "Ginger Rogers continues to be one of the most attractive young women on the screen." So was Photoplay: "Ginger Rogers was made for a bathing suit."
Lloyd Bacon, who directed You Said a Mouthful, also directed Rogers's next film, 42nd Street (1933). Bacon apparently saw something special in the young actress and offered her a featured role as "Anytime Annie," a chorus girl so named, another chorine explains, because "She only said 'no' once and that was because she didn't hear the question!" In her autobiography, Rogers credits LeRoy with urging her to accept the role. Once she did, she ran with it, adding clever affectations like a fancy accent and a monocle. The small role launched her career.
As Rogers's career rose, Brown's descended. Although he was one of Hollywood's top box office stars in 1933 and 1936, he left Warner Brothers in the late 1930s, and signed with an independent producer. His films were cheaply made and not very good, and Brown's career never fully recovered. But he did have one more great film role in him, eccentric millionaire Osgood Fielding in Some Like It Hot (1959), who utters the film's iconic last line, "Well, nobody's perfect!"
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Producer: Raymond Griffith
Screenplay: Robert Lord, Bolton Mallory, based on a story by William B. Dover
Cinematography: Richard Towers
Editor: Owen Marks
Art Direction: Jack Okey
Cast: Joe E. Brown (Joe Holt), Ginger Rogers (Alice Brandon), Preston Foster (Ed Dover), Sheila Terry (Cora), Guinn "Big Boy" Williams (Joe Holt), Farina (Sam), Harry Gribbon (Harry Daniels).
by Margarita Landazuri