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Debonair Manhattan stockbroker and playboy Victor Arnold (Warren William) has finally decided to settle down. When Times Square Playboy (1936) opens, Victor has announced to his colleagues and comrades that he will soon be marrying the glamorous nightclub chanteuse Beth Calhoun (June Travis). The only hitch in Victor's plan is the old friend he invites to the big city to serve as his best man.
P.H. Bancroft (Gene Lockhart) and his amiable wife Lottie (Kathleen Lockhart) arrive at Victor's luxurious penthouse apartment where they find him, in a scene modern day viewers may find strangely intimate, wrestling with his butler Casey (Barton MacLane). Victor dismisses Casey and proceeds to shower while joshing with P.H. before the two men head out for a night of carousing on the town. The pair heads to a swanky nightclub where Beth, under her stage name Fay Melody performs a mildly saucy number, "Looking for Trouble," and flirts with P.H. throughout.
Unmoored from his small town of Big Bend, and his far more sensible wife Lottie, P.H. becomes absolutely convinced Beth, her brother Wally (Dick Purcell) -- who works for Victor -- and their parents are born swindlers and are using Beth's marriage to Victor for material gain. The set-up is amusing, but more often excruciatingly embarrassing as P.H. openly accuses Beth, Wally and their father (Granville Bates) of being frauds. In P.H.'s small-town mind, the whole family just wants to jump on Victor's gravy train. When P.H. points to the Calhouns as being gold diggers a rift opens up between Victor and P.H.
Times Square Playboy was based on the play The Home Towners by stage legend George M. Cohan which opened at the Hudson Theater in 1926 and ran for 64 performances. The 1936 film version was directed by William McGann, and was originally called The Gentleman from Big Bend. It was proceeded by an early talkie, The Home Towners (1928) directed by Bryan Foy. And in 1940, another version of the stage play was made into a film, Ladies Must Live.
Warren William biographer John Stangeland called Times Square Playboy a "competent but lazy studio effort, typical of the lack of polish put into the actor's vehicles at this time." A review in The New York Times wasn't much kinder, calling the film, "a noisy comedy which manages to be alternately amusing and dull." The review did, however, call out the actors for commendation.
Though largely consigned to B-movies during her Hollywood career, June Travis made one of her most memorable screen appearances immediately before Times Square Playboy starring alongside James Cagney and Pat O'Brien in Ceiling Zero (1936). In an interesting twist, Gene Lockhart's wife Kathleen Lockhart played his onscreen wife, which gave their onscreen relationship a crackling veracity.
The production came at a particularly difficult time for star Warren William noted author Stangeland. Concerned that the script -- as written -- made him look too old, the then 42-year-old William campaigned to have a line removed that made him appear to be in his 50s or 60s. The production ground to a halt and a ferocious battle raged between the director McGann and producer Bryan Foy, both of whom refused to remove the line in question. Eventually after much heated debate, William got his way and the line was changed.
Director: William McGann
Screenplay: Roy Chanslor (screenplay); George M. Cohan (play)
Cinematography: L. William O'Connell
Art Direction: Esdras Hartley
Film Editing: Jack Killifer
Cast: Warren William (Victor 'Vic' Arnold), June Travis (Beth Calhoun, aka Fay Melody), Barton MacLane (Casey, Vic's Butler/Trainer), Gene Lockhart (P.H. 'Ben'/'Pig Head' Bancroft), Kathleen Lockhart (Lottie Bancroft), Dick Purcell (Wally Calhoun), Craig Reynolds (Joe Roberts), Granville Bates (Mr. Mort Calhoun), Dorothy Vaughan (Mrs. Nellie Calhoun).
by Felicia Feaster