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Synopsis: Peter Middleton (Ian Hunter) is an unemployed car salesman who has lost the last of his money in a card game and has nowhere to live. While walking the streets he spots a starving orphan boy attempting to steal apples from a fruit vendor and comes to his aid when he is apprehended. Together Peter and young Billy (John Singer) decide to pose as father and son so they can convince a landlady to rent them a room. Although suspicious at first, Mrs. Badger (Muriel George) agrees to let them stay but demands payment the following day. This buys Peter some time to scrounge up some money and his luck changes when he meets Cynthia Hatch (Nancy O'Neil), the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, who pretends to be a working class girl. Although Cynthia secretly tries to help Peter get a job at her father's company, the ruse backfires and Peter ends up going to work for Hatch's competitor, the Blue Point Company. With his innovative business plans, Peter quickly proves a major threat to Hatch who soon learns that his daughter is in love with Middleton and is working as his secretary. The animosity between Hatch and Middleton is eventually resolved, however, in a business transaction that finds the formerly homeless Peter facing a bright, prosperous future with his fiance and "adopted son."
Something Always Happens (1934) takes its title from a statement made by Peter Middleton referring to his fate in life. A born hustler with no real business experience, Peter has a knack for turning a sudden opportunity into a brilliant career move not unlike the street smart urbanites who rise from poverty to positions of power in other Warner Bros. films of the early thirties. Although played as a lighthearted comedy-romance, the film acknowledges the grim realities of unemployment and homelessness in England following the first World War. It also addresses the subject of hypergamy, in which a person marries into a class higher than their own; it has always been a topic of endless fascination for British audiences and novelists such as Jane Austin.
Directed by Michael Powell, Something Always Happens is one of twenty-three "quota quickies" he was hired to helm for Teddington Studios, all of which were typically one hour features needed to satisfy a legal requirement that cinemas in England exhibit a certain quota of British movies. The producer of Something Always Happens was Irving Asher, an American who oversaw film production at Warner Brothers' British Studios. According to Powell in his autobiography, A Life in Movies, Irving "had to make about twenty films a year to fulfill his British quota...He went back to California each year with the head of his scenario department, raided the story department at Burbank and came back to Teddington with perhaps fifty scripts that had already been turned into films by those satanic mills and were already playing at Palaces and flea-pits all around the world, many of them with big stars like Bette Davis, Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. Everything was run like a machine at Burbank and the average length of a script was eighty pages...All that Irving had to do was hand the script to his story department, who cut it down to fifty pages and handed it over to a director like me. This was how tight little dramas like my Crown v. Stevens (1936), or comedies like Something Always Happens...arrived on the British screen. I made six or seven of these for Irving, slotting them in between other assignments. Jerry [Jackson] and he, both young Americans both in the quota-quickie business, were good friends. They carved me up between them, dovetailing their schedules so that I could work for both of them."
Although Powell never felt that the movies he made for Teddington were any more than routine work assignments, he did occasionally reveal a fondness for a few of the "quickies" he made there. Regarding Something Always Happens, the director called it "a very good comedy. We played it all out for laughs and great speed, excellent dialogue. It was about a clap who never paid for anything...Ian was a very good comedian."
Powell would use Ian Hunter again in another Teddington feature, Lazybones (1935), in which the title character was similar to Peter Middleton in Something Always Happens - a rather unmotivated and lackadaisical character who is forced to prove himself by getting a respectable job and making a success of it. Hunter, like Powell, would soon move on to better opportunities but instead of remaining in England he followed former Teddington Studios' actors Errol Flynn and Patric Knowles to Hollywood where he made his U.S. film debut in Jalna (1935) for RKO and then became a contract player for Warner Bros., joining Flynn and Knowles in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
The other actor of note in Something Always Happens is George Zucco, who plays the easily rattled proprietor of the Cafe de Paris, the restaurant where Middleton usually tricks the waiters into "paying" him for his meals there. Zucco would also relocate to America in 1935, first appearing on Broadway opposite Helen Hayes in Victoria Regina and then making his U.S. movie debut in Sinner Take All (1936). Today he is best remembered as a horror film character actor, making memorable impressions in The Mummy's Hand (1940), The Mad Ghoul (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944) and many others.
Producer: Irving Asher
Director: Michael Powell
Screenplay: Brock Williams
Cinematography: Basil Emmott
Film Editing: Bert Bates, Ralph Dawson
Art Direction: Peter Proud
Cast: Ian Hunter (Peter Middleton), Nancy O'Neil (Cynthia Hatch), John Singer (Billy), Peter Gawthorne (Mr. Hatch), Muriel George (Mrs. Badger), Barry Livesey (George Hamlin).
A Life in Movies by Michael Powell
Michael Powell by James Howard
The Films of Michael Powell and the Archers by Scott Salwolke
"Teddington Studios", an overview by Morris Bright
by Jeff Stafford