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FILM

April 8, 2015

THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES

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I just saw a teriffic movie yesterday. The Devil and Miss Jones is a 1941 comedy starring Jean Arthur, Charles Coburn, Spring Byington and Robert Cummings.

Briefly, the plot involves the curmudgeonly owner of a department store (Coburn) who takes a job at his own establishment as an undercover employee. He hopes to ferret out balky employees who are trying to organize for better pay and working conditions.

 

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Along the way his heart is touched by Arthur, who treats him like a father, and also by Byington, with whom he strikes up a romantic relationship.

There’s really nothing new in the plot. Coburn comes to sympathize with the rabble-rousers he was prepared to hate, and in the end brings them a happier place to work.

Talent on this film is top-notch. Coburn was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the gruff store-owner. Jean Arthur is at her prime, and Byington and Cummings deliver solid support. Edmund Gwen is great in a definitely un-Kris Kringle role as a martinet store manager.

 

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The film was produced by Norman Krasna and Arthur’s then-husband, Frank Ross. It was part of a two-picture indepent deal they had with RKO (the other was Lady Takes a Chance, also with Arthur). Script by Krasna is intelligent and loaded with crackling dialogue. ┬áIt was directed by Sam Wood, whose career spanned such classic as A Night at the Opera, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Pride of the Yankees and King’s Row.

 

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The unheralded star of the production team is William Cameron Menzies. Menzies was the production designer for Gone with the Wind, and worked with Wood on Yankees, King’s Row, and other projects. He also designed and directed the nightmare 1950s sci-fi film, Invaders from Mars.

The two Ross/Arthur films are apparently not part of the general RKO package, as they were produced independently. The version i saw was released by Olive Films, and the copy was top-notch.

By the way—if you don’t watch any other part of this film, be sure to enjoy the fantastic opening credits! One of the greatest I’ve ever seen! Obviously designed by Menzies, i had to watch this sequence more than once to get the full enjoyment!

 

SEE THIS FILM!

 

 






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