Cast & Crew
When he discovers that he has no room for Russian acrobats Ivan and Nicolai Ghonoff, from whom he has already accepted rent money, Eli West, the proprietor of the Venus de Milo Arms apartment building, convinces indebted tenant Mary Wilson to vacate her room for the brothers and become the "invisible" roommate of another poor tenant, artist Gary Martin. Although skeptical, Mary agrees to Eli's terms, which stipulate that while Gary, who works at night in a "trucking concern," is at home during the day, she must stay away and allow fifteen minutes of "leeway" time before entering the basement apartment. After a short time, both Gary, who has just ended a relationship with Edith Crumwell, a sausage heiress, and Mary, recently employed to sell Aladdin Electric Shavers, become irritated by the other's bad habits and start to play pointed practical jokes on each other. One night, Gary, who has never seen Mary, unwittingly flirts with her in a neighborhood cafe and, after plotting roommate murder with her, makes a date for the next evening. Before the hour of rendezvous, however, Mary removes all of Gary's paintings and displays them during a wind storm as an exhibit of the "world's worst artist." By the time Gary has retrieved his art, he misses his date with Mary and runs into a jealous Edith, who then steals his recently completed portrait of Mary. Mary and Gary's practical jokes against each other escalate in outrageousness until both threaten Eli, who has heard from tenant Pete Ryan that Mary and Gary are dating, with moving. Then, while Gary and Mary are out eating doughnuts together, Ogilvie O. Oglethorpe, Mary's adoring employer, arrives unexpectedly at the apartment. To impress Oglethorpe, Eli decides not to take him to Gary and Mary's room, but to the acrobats' more luxurious apartment. When Oglethorpe eyes a photograph of the acrobats' enormous weight-lifting mother, however, he runs from the room in terror, believing she is Mary's mother, and bumps into Edith on the front stairs. While Oglethorpe demonstrates the Aladdin Electric Massager on Edith, Mary and Gary, who have been using phony names and addresses with each other, try to part in front of their building without revealing their true residence. Unable to ditch each other, the couple finally goes to a cafe, where Mary spies her portrait adorning an advertisement for Crumwell sausages. Furious at the juxtaposition, Mary denounces Gary in the cafe, an attack overheard by Pete, her self-appointed bodyguard. After Pete knocks out Gary, Mary takes his unconscious body to her apartment and revives him. Although Gary quickly deduces Mary's identity, he pretends to be shocked by the presence of male clothes, a ruse that further confuses Eli, Oglethorpe and Edith. After all is revealed to Mary, she storms away in a huff but is stopped by Gary, who with Eli's help, has brought a minister to marry them.
Evelyn Carter Carrington
Living on Love
As in Rafter Romance, another item in TCM's package of rediscovered RKO films, the comedy revolves around two lovers who are unwitting roommates, forced by economics to share an apartment in 12-hour shifts. Although charmed by each other in the outside world, each despises his unseen housing partner and does his/her best to make the other's life miserable.
Taking over the roles played in the original by Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster are Whitney Bourne, whose career as an RKO actress was limited to the mid- to late-1930s; and James Dunn, who enjoyed a 40-year film and TV career and won an Oscar® for 1945's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Other changes include the fact that the apartment is in a basement, not an attic, and the young woman's day job is selling electric shavers rather than refrigerators. The general tone reflects the influence of screwball comedy, which had become dominant in the four years separating the films. And the fact that the film industry began enforcing its self-imposed Production Code in 1934 meant that the later film lacks some of the more free-wheeling qualities of the original. Otherwise, Living on Love is quite faithful as a remake.
This time around the pair's unwelcome suitors are played by Franklin Pangborn as Bourne's amorous supervisor and Joan Woodbury as the domineering sausage heiress who is Dunn's would-be protector. Solly Ward plays the landlord of the "Venus de Milo Arms," and ethnic humor is provided by Ken Terrell and James Fawcett as Russian acrobats known as the Ghonoff Brothers. The landlord's maid is Etta McDaniel, Hattie's lesser-known sister, who acted in films from 1933 to 1946. Appearing in an uncredited bit is Frances Gifford, who would marry Dunn a year later. (They divorced in 1942.) Director Lew Landers, who enjoyed a long career in "B" movies, later turned to series television.
The film's working titles were Love in a Basement and The Sky's the Limit.
Producer: Maury M. Cohen
Director: Lew Landers
Screenplay: Franklin Coen, from screenplay by H.W. Hanemann, Sam Mintz, Glenn Tryon, and book by John K. Wells
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Film Editing: Harry Marker
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Costume Design: Renié
Cast: James Dunn (Gary Martin), Whitney Bourne (Mary Wilson), Joan Woodbury (Edith Crumwell), Solly Ward (Eli West), Tom Kennedy (Pete Ryan), Franklin Pangborn (Ogilvie O. Oglethorpe), Etta McDaniel (Lizbeth) .
BW-62m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe
Living on Love
[Editor's note: Living on Love was not viewed prior to the publication of its entry in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40. This entry was revised after a 2007 viewing of the film.] The working title of this film was Love in a Basement. Hollywood Reporter news items add Billy Lechner and Nicholas Kobliansky to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. RKO made an earlier version of Wells's novel called Rafter Romance .
Living on Love was one of several RKO films that, due to rights issues involving the estate of producer Merian C. Cooper, had not been shown theatrically or on television for decades. The films were broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable station in April 2007. For additional information about the rights issues, please see the entry above for the 1933 RKO production Double Harness.