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Society matron Emily Kilbourne (Billie Burke) is a ditzy do-gooder with a penchant for giving bums and ex-cons a second chance in life. When a down-on-his-luck writer (Brian Aherne) is mistaken for a tramp, Mrs. Kilbourne swiftly takes him in and hires him as a chauffer for her eccentric family. Sparks fly between him and the snobby eldest Kilbourne daughter, Geraldine (Constance Bennett), and together they learn about life and love from two very different worlds.
Merrily We Live (1938) is a delightful screwball comedy from MGM featuring the lovely Constance Bennett. Supported by an excellent cast that includes Brian Aherne, Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray and Patsy Kelly, Bennett shines at her very brightest in this light romantic fare.
When Merrily was released, Constance Bennett was just coming off a big success with her hit film Topper (1937) co-starring Cary Grant. Produced by Hal Roach and directed by Norman Z. McLeod, Topper was responsible for revitalizing Bennett's waning career at the time. Hoping to capitalize on its success, Hal Roach quickly re-assembled Constance Bennett and director McLeod, along with several of the same cast and crew from Topper including Billie Burke and Alan Mowbray to make Merrily We Live.
The winning formula worked, as the rapid-fire comedy was embraced by audiences and critics alike. The New York Daily Mirror called Merrily We Live "the most exhilarating light comedy of the season," while the New York Daily News said, "Constance Bennett, who proved to be a top-notch comedienne in Topper, plays the leading feminine role in the current comedy for all it's worth." Billie Burke's scene-stealing performance was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress that year. Other nominations for Merrily We Live included ones for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Original Song for "Merrily We Live."
Constance Bennett, Billie Burke and Alan Mowbray would be assembled together once more with producer Hal Roach and director Norman Z. McLeod to make the sequel to their previous hit Topper called Topper Takes a Trip (1939). Bennett co-starred twice more with her Merrily love interest, Brian Aherne, a decade later in Angel on the Amazon (1948) and Smart Woman (1948).
Producer: Milton H. Bren, Hal Roach
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Screenplay: Jack Jevne, Eddie Moran
Cinematography: Norbert Brodine
Film Editing: William H. Terhune
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
Music: Phil Craig, Marvin Hatley
Cast: Constance Bennett (Jerry Kilbourne), Brian Aherne (Wade Rawlins), Alan Mowbray (Grosvenor), Billie Burke (Mrs. Emily Kilbourne), Patsy Kelly (Etta), Ann Dvorak (Minerva Harlan).
by Andrea Passafiume