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"It should be a handy item to have around, same going for Miss Sothern," declared Variety of Let's Fall in Love (1933) and its leading lady Ann Sothern. Though Sothern had appeared in a few movies already, they were bit parts and she was usually uncredited -- and when she was, it was as Harriet Lake, her real name.
In Let's Fall in Love, Sothern plays a Brooklyn girl plucked out of a carnival to replace a temperamental Swedish movie star who has just stormed off a film, leaving the director (Edmund Lowe) and producer (Gregory Ratoff) in panic mode. Ratoff insists on finding a genuine Swedish singer to replace the star, and when Lowe can't find one, he takes Sothern out of the carnival, spends six weeks training her, and then -- voila -- presents her as a major new discovery. The ploy works until Sothern falls for her handsome director, whose jealous fiance gets wind of what's going on and spills the beans.
Let's Fall in Love may be a trifle, but it was received as a very good trifle. The New York Times described it as "a nimble-witted romantic comedy which trips along so lightly that the fade-out brings the spectator abruptly out of a mood... [Sothern] reveals personal charm and a pretty voice." Variety not only praised the film but was impressed with it as a smartly produced investment: "On the trade end it really amounts to a lesson on how to make a picture with tunes and keep it within financial reason. Some of the indie producers will probably sit through this one a couple of times. They should."
As good an impression as Sothern makes, it's Gregory Ratoff who steals the film as the harried movie producer, the type of character he did best. He is the source of much of the film's comedy and was singled out by many critics. (The Times called the film "Mr. Ratoff's show.")
This was composer Harold Arlen's first movie songwriting assignment. He wrote a few songs with lyricist Ted Koehler for the picture, but only two remained in the final cut: "Let's Fall in Love" and "Love Is Love Anywhere." Many reviews of the time complained that the title tune was reprised too often, but the song did become very popular and remains a standard.
In a 1987 interview, Sothern recalled her transformation from Harriet Lake into Ann Sothern. Harry Cohn had discovered her on stage and made her a film offer, but he insisted she change her name because in his view there were already too many actors with the last name of "Lake," including Arthur Lake and Alice Lake. "He made out a list and called me in," Sothern recalled. "On the list there were a lot of names. Having been a good student of Shakespeare and that sort of thing, E.H. Sothern's name was there. I admired him because he was a very fine Shakespearean actor, so I took Sothern. My mother's name was Annette, so I took Ann. And that's how I became Ann Sothern."
Let's Fall in Love was remade in 1949 as Slightly French, directed by Douglas Sirk.
Producer: Harry Cohn
Director: David Burton
Screenplay: Herbert Fields (story and screenplay)
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline
Film Editing: Gene Milford
Cast: Edmund Lowe (Ken Lane), Ann Sothern (Jean Kendall), Miriam Jordan (Gerry Marsh), Gregory Ratoff (Max Hopper), Greta Meyer (Lisa Bjorkman), Betty Furness (Linda), Arthur Jarrett (Art Jarrett, Composer), Anderson Lawler (Allen Foster), Tala Birell (Hedwig Forsell), Ruth Warren (Nellie), Marjorie Gateson (Agatha Holmes).
by Jeremy Arnold
James Robert Parish and Gregory W. Mank, Hollywood on Hollywood
Margie Schultz, Ann Sothern: A Bio-Bibliography