Wise Girl (1937)
Directed by Leigh Jason. Written by Charles Norman & Allan Scott . Photography, J. Peverell Marley. Editing, Jack Hively. Art Direction Van Nest Polglase. Cast :Miriam Hopkins (Susan Fletcher), Ray Milland (John O'Halloran), Walter Abel (Karl) Henry Stephenson ( Mr. Fletcher), Alec Craig (Dermont O'Neil), Guinn 'Big Boy' (Mike Williams), Betty Philson (Joan), Marianna Strelby (Katie), Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Bell-Rivington), Jean De Briac (George), Ivan Lebedeff (Prince Michael), Rafael Storm ( Prince Ivan), et al. An RKO film. 70 minutes.
Miriam Hopkins plays the wealthy society gal who, upon the death of her sister, sets out to find her two orphan nieces, in New York's Bohemia. She tracks them down in Greenwich Village, living with their uncle Ray Milland, a painter. Their abode is one of those houses with a courtyard surrounding the apartments. Expectedly, all kinds of original, artistic types dwell there. All are colorful, impoverished but happy free souls. All are friends, all are sweet and wacky. Hopkins wants to get an inside view of her nieces' life, so she poses as a poor - indeed broke - woman. Expectedly the kids are darlings and wise for their age. Expectedly they and Miriam bond. Expectedly Milland and Hopkins get sweet on each other.
Less expected are the turns of the plot, with Hopkins getting a job in a restaurant where she throws amorous, posh customers into turmoil,
The film is pure Depression era escapism. Not a great unknown movie to discover but still a pleasant 70 minutes with several moments of charm and comedy, almost screwball though not fully so. The two girls are most cute. They speak French, with a pretty atrocious accent -- but who's surprised. Hollywood was ever sloppy with languages, had a tin ear and never seemed to invest a little money in language-checkers.
The movie's director, Jason Leigh, is far from being high on the directorial totem pole. Nevertheless, he has some nice items to his credit, such as the pleasant musical That Girl from Paris (1936), with Lily Pons (Lucille Ball in the supporting cast), and the screwball mystery The Mad Miss Manton (1938), with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda.
Wise Girl inevitably brings to mind several films by Frank Capra, notably the next year's You Can't Take It With You (1938; Oscars for Best Film and Best Director) another escapist movie where eccentric, happy, non-materialistic "little people" show the rich a thing or two.