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In the mid-1930s, Fredric March was one of Hollywood's busiest leading men, freelancing at various studios with co-stars such as Garbo, Shearer, and Hepburn. He earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of an alcoholic movie star in A Star is Born (1937), and followed that with the brilliant screwball comedy, Nothing Sacred. But March, who had begun his career on the New York stage, longed to return to it. He and his wife, actress Florence Eldridge, decided to produce and co-star in a Broadway play, Yr. Obedient Husband (1938). Critics panned March's performance, and the play lasted only eight performances. Returning to Hollywood, March accepted Hal Roach's offer to once again play a reporter in a screwball comedy, There Goes My Heart (1938).
Best known for comedy shorts with the likes of Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy (his studio was known as the "Lot of Laughs"), Hal Roach had begun making feature films in the 1920s. He made dramas, westerns, and action pictures as well as comedies, which were distributed by MGM. There Goes My Heart was the first Roach film to be distributed by United Artists. An almost carbon copy of It Happened One Night (1934), the film features a runaway heiress going incognito to see how the other half lives, pursued by a reporter who's on to her disguise.
Virginia Bruce was a lesser leading lady of the 1930s and 40s, whose cool glamour better suited her for supporting roles as the other woman than for comedy. Hampered by a predictable and derivative script (the story was by Broadway columnist Ed Sullivan, who in the 1950s hosted a wildly popular television variety show), she and March were not at their best in There Goes My Heart. The outstanding performances in the film are by veteran character actors such as Eugene Palette as March's gravel-voiced editor, Patsy Kelly as the wisecracking shopgirl who takes Bruce under her wing, and Claude Gillingwater as Bruce's overbearing grandfather. The inimitable Marjorie Main has a bit part as a customer, and look for King Kong's Robert Armstrong in a small role as a detective.
The appearance of two former stars in There Goes My Heart is even more intriguing. Harry Langdon had been one of the top silent film comics, in a league with Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. In the mid-1920s, he left Mack Sennett for Warner Bros., where he had control of his own productions. His team included Frank Capra as writer, and later director, but after three very successful films, Langdon decided he could handle all those chores himself, and fired Capra. Langdon's subsequent films were disasters, and Warner Bros. did not renew his contract. In the early 1930s, Roach, who liked to try out over-the-hill stars to see if he could revive their careers, gave him another chance, signing him to do a series, but that, too was a failure. A few years later, during a contract dispute with Stan Laurel, Roach brought Langdon back. Landon's unbilled bit part as a minister in There Goes My Heart stirred interest in him, and the following year, Roach starred Langdon with Oliver Hardy in Zenobia (1939), but Hardy soon returned to his partnership with Laurel. Langdon continued to work sporadically until his death in 1945, always dreaming of a return to the stardom that had long faded.
Another former star, Nancy Carroll, who had teamed memorably with March in Laughter (1930), had a supporting role in There Goes My Heart as Kelly's roommate and fellow shopgirl. Carroll had been one of the biggest stars of the early sound period, but by 1938, her career was faltering. The film did nothing to revive it (Photoplay noted, "Nancy Carroll returns to the screen as another shopgirl, but she does not Come Back."), and she made only one more feature film before retiring from the screen.
The era of screwball comedies was drawing to a close when There Goes My Heart was made, and that, along with the copycat element, led to a lukewarm reception for the film. Photoplay praised Patsy Kelly's performance, and added, "If you are still a devotee of the 'mad, mad fun' school, you will probably enjoy this." Howard Barnes's review in the New York Herald Tribune was equally tepid: "While the plot structure remains familiar and feeble, there is enough incidental nonsense to take your mind off it a good deal of the time. The clowning is random, but it is generally refreshing." Seen today, some of the "incidental nonsense," like Patsy Kelly's sublimely comic attempt to sell a vibrating exercise machine, are reason enough to see the film.
Producer: Milton H. Bren, Hal Roach
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Screenplay: Jack Jevne, Eddie Moran, Ed Sullivan (story)
Cinematography: Norbert Brodine
Film Editing: William H. Terhune
Art Direction: Charles Hall
Music: Marvin Hatley
Cast: Fredric March (William Z. Spencer), Virginia Bruce (Joan Butterfield), Patsy Kelly (Peggy O'Brien), Alan Mowbray (Penny Pennypepper), Nancy Carroll (Dorothy Moore), Eugene Pallette (Stevens).
by Margarita Landazuri