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Myrna Loy was two years into her new-found image as a sparkling comedienne, thanks to her success in The Thin Man (1934), when she appeared opposite another expert farceur, Robert Montgomery, in Petticoat Fever (1936). This romantic comedy casts Loy as the bride-to-be of a wealthy Englishman (Reginald Owen). The couple is forced to make an emergency landing in the frozen plains of Alaska, near the remote cabin of a handsome radio operator (Montgomery). The resulting romantic triangle becomes a quadrangle when the Englishman's former girlfriend also arrives on the scene.
Chiefly distinguished by its setting in the Alaskan wilderness rather than in the swanky urban settings where most such comedies of the period were played out, Petticoat Fever was shot on MGM sound stages. In her autobiography, Being and Becoming, Loy recalled that the film's "snow" was actually feathers and cornstarch. She added, however, that the parkas worn by the actors were "authentic," having been salvaged from MGM's documentary-styledEskimo (1933), which was filmed in the Arctic. According to Loy, she and Montgomery would get so "steamed up" under the hot lights in the heavy clothing that they'd have to stop filming. "Bob would unzip his parka, squirt in some perfume and groan, 'God Almighty, do you realize how many people have lived and died in this thing?'"
Loy wrote fondly of Montgomery and his "shenanigans," and of the "crazy nonsense" they enjoyed together during filming. Both had appeared in two earlier films, Night Flight and When Ladies Meet (both 1933), but Petticoat Fever, to Loy's chagrin, was their only chance to play comedy together. "Bob was a deft comedian," Loy wrote, "and there were so many other things we could have done together at Metro." In particular, she mentions Noel Coward's Private Lives (1931), which Montgomery filmed with Norma Shearer, wife of MGM producer Irving Thalberg: "I hadn't emerged as a comedienne yet, so Mrs. Thalberg got that one."
Producer: Frank Davis
Director: George Fitzmaurice
Screenplay: Harold Goldman, from play by Mark Reed
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith
Principal Cast: Robert Montgomery (Bascom Dinsmore), Myrna Loy (Irene Campton), Reginald Owen (Sir James Felton), Otto Yamaoka (Kimo), George Hassell (Capt. Landry), Winifred Shotter (Clara Wilson).
by Roger Fristoe