52 Code Films – Week #9: “Casanova Brown” from 1944

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Today is March 3, and it is time for the ninth article in our series 52 Code Films. This is the first article in this weekly series which we are publishing in March. This series’s purpose is to make us discover Code films which we have never seen before. Classic film fans don’t have the ability to anticipate the release of new movies with their favorite actors, since the films we love were made decades ago. We can’t have the thrill of waiting for new films to come to local theaters, perhaps to become new favorites. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t watch movies which we have not seen as yet but can discover and love. In 2019, I have determined to watch at least one new film from the American Breen Era (1934-1954) each week and to write a review of it. In most weeks so far, I have watched two new Code films and reviewed the first one I saw. In some weeks I have watched more new pictures, and in others I have watched only one. However, my project has led to my discovery of many wonderful classic films.

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This week’s article will be about Casanova Brown from 1944. Directed by Sam Wood, this movie is a romantic comedy starring Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright. My mother bought it on Amazon Prime Video several weeks ago, and I was curious to see it, too. Since she recommended it as a good film, we watched it on Monday. As it was the first new Code film which I watched during the week, it is my topic for today’s article. I regret that I did not publish a Breening Thursday article between this article and last week’s 52 Code Films entry. Although I skipped this week, I promise that this Thursday will bring an exciting new entry in the series!

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A young intellectual is engaged to marry a wealthy girl, much to the chagrin of her father. The disagreeable old man married his wife for her money, which he has never been able to personally enjoy, so he is reluctant to see his young friend follow his example. However, his future son-in-law assures him that the marriage does not stem from his greed. Everything goes well until the bridegroom receives a mysterious letter from a female doctor at a maternity hospital in Chicago, instructing him to come because of an urgent matter. Confused and concerned, the young man confesses to his future father-in-law that he got married during his trip to New York last year. Although he and his bride loved each other, her mother proclaimed that their impetuous marriage was doomed because of astrological signs, and her father agreed with the superstition. When the young man’s cigarette accident started a fire that burnt down the whole mansion, the parents felt that their point had been proved. He left, hoping that his bride would return to him. When neither spouse contacted the other for months, the bride got a divorce. Now, the young man fears that his bride of one day may be having their baby. He decides to go to Chicago and investigate the matter, promising to return for the wedding the next evening. In Chicago, he learns that his wife has in fact delivered their baby girl. He falls in love with the precious infant and wants to give her a real home. However, he is horrified to learn that his ex-wife is putting their baby up for adoption. Unwilling to lose his daughter, he kidnaps the baby from the hospital disguised as a doctor. Little does he know that his former wife said that she wanted to give the baby away so that he would have to come and see her. All she ever wanted was to remarry him and be a real family of three. Now, it seems like it may be too late, since her ex-husband has disappeared with the baby. The hospital begins scouring the city to find the lost infant and father. Meanwhile, the intellectual must become an expert in infant care in a hurry. Holed up in a hotel room with aid from only a hotel maid and doorman, he tends to his daughter with the attentiveness of a registered nurse, the precision of a surgeon, and the love of a father. Will he and his wife realize that they love each other and start a life together?

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The young man is Casanova “Cass” Brown, played by Gary Cooper. His wife is Isabel Drury, played by Teresa Wright. His greedy future father-in-law is Mr. Ferris, played by Frank Morgan. His wealthy fiancee is Madge Ferris, played by Anita Louise. The female doctor who contacts Cass is Dr. Zernerke, played by Jill Esmond. Isabel’s mother is Mrs. Drury, played by Patricia Collinge. Isabel’s father is Mr. Drury, played by Edmond Breon. Madge’s mother is Mrs. Ferris, played by Isobel Elsom. The hotel maid is Monica Case, played by Mary Treen. The doorman is Frank, played by Emory Parnell.

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Production Notes

This film was directed by Sam Wood. It was produced by Nunnally Johnson. It came from a play written by Floyd Dell, Nunnally Johnson, and Thomas Mitchell. This movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Black and White Art Direction – Interior Decoration for Perry Ferguson and Julia Heron, Best Sound Recording for Thomas T. Moulton, and Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Arthur Lange.

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Code Classification

This is a perfect Code film. It is a charming picture of parenthood, particularly fatherhood. This would be a good Father’s Day movie. The tender love and care which Cass shows for his daughter is touching and a good example of how sensitive strong men can be. This movie teaches the importance of fighting for your marriage, your home, and your children’s happiness. Cass’s desire to keep his baby from being giving up for adoption teaches a lesson about the value of human life. Adoption can be wonderful, but parents should treat their children of all ages as human beings, not items to be bargained, swapped, and given away. In a time when human life is cheap, this is a wonderful message. There are no objectionable qualities about this film. It is a good, clean movie, an example of what a Code film should be. The endearing, valuable lessons about the importance of family and paternal care give it the added quality of Code-perfection.

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My Opinion

This is a really charming movie. It is amusing, heartfelt, silly, and tender. There are moments of very lighthearted humor which are tastefully interwoven between sincere moments. The acting is excellent. I really like Gary Cooper in this film. He is very sweet with the baby who is supposed to be his daughter. I admired Teresa Wright’s performance as the young mother; she is sweet and pretty, as usual. Frank Morgan is hilariously curmudgeonly as the future father-in-law. I also commend the infant actress who plays the baby girl. She is very pretty, and she responds well with the other actors. The dialogue is well-written and well-delivered by the skilled performers. I found this movie to be very entertaining.

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I highly recommend this film to my readers. I think that classic film fans will enjoy it a lot. Admirers of Gary Cooper will like seeing him in this sincere and charmingly clumsy role. This movie is called a screwball comedy, and it has aspects of that genre. However, not all films which are given this classification are as zany as the word screwball implies. This movie is very funny and slightly ridiculous at times. However, the comedy is tempered with calm moments of genuine emotions. I found this movie’s premise to be very original. Not many movies show fathers’ caring for their infants. Also, this movie has a clever reference to the famed lover of the Old World, Casanova, since its protagonist is supposed to be his descendant. The intellectual Cass Brown wrote a book about his namesake, which brings him to New York in the first place. Although he seems very different from his promiscuous ancestor, Cass soon finds himself divorced from one woman, engaged to another, and proposing to a third! Maybe there is something to heredity after all.

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This week, I watched one extra new Code film, The Lady Eve from 1941, which I will review some other time.

Click the above image to buy this movie on DVD at Amazon and support PEPS through the Amazon Affiliate program!

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