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You know you're in a screwball comedy when Eric Blore plays a butler named "Butch" and there's a Great Dane named "Pee Wee" running around. The movie, Breakfast for Two (1937), finds Barbara Stanwyck as a Texas heiress trying to reform and then marry the playboy heir (Herbert Marshall) to a Manhattan shipping company. As funny as the story is, the movie is practically stolen by the supporting cast. In addition to Eric Blore's hilarious turn, there's Glenda Farrell as Marshall's dizzy maid, and Donald Meek as a harassed justice of the peace, both excellent.
Stanwyck made Breakfast for Two immediately following Stella Dallas (1937), the tearjerker for which she would receive her first Best Actress Oscar® nomination. Stanwyck said at the time, "Breakfast for Two was a relaxed holiday after the siege of Stella Dallas." Surely, after the heaviness of that film, Stanwyck enjoyed playing scenes like the one where she boxes with Marshall before knocking him out with weighted gloves - perhaps the comic highlight of this movie.
Filmed under the title A Love Like That, Breakfast for Two was directed by Alfred Santell, who shot in sequence on a $500,000 budget. "[It] won't disappoint those who come for laughs," declared Variety.
One interesting item from a magazine of the time said this about Marshall: "[He has] the most cultured voice in Hollywood, speaks the best English and even has sent Stanwyck, among others, scurrying to the dictionary for elocution lessons...When he visits London he haunts the music halls and slums, listening to pure cockney. Says it enriches his soul, drives out repressed homesickness from long Hollywood stays." Who knew?!
Stanwyck and Marshall worked together once more, immediately following this film, on the 20th-Century-Fox drama Always Goodbye (1938).
Producer: Edward Kaufman, Samuel J. Briskin
Director: Alfred Santell
Screenplay: David Garth, Charles Kaufman, Viola Brothers Shore, Paul Yawitz
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Film Editing: George Hively
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Valentine Ransome), Herbert Marshall (Jonathan Blair), Glenda Farrell (Carol Wallace), Eric Blore (Butch), Donald Meek (Justice of the Peace), Etienne Girardot (Mr. Meggs).
by Jeremy Arnold