An early screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, Platinum Blonde is a reverse Pygmalion story about a working-class reporter named Stew Smith (Robert Williams) who marries a society girl named Ann Schuyler (Jean Harlow), but afterward has second thoughts about her efforts to improve him.
This theme of romantically linking an upper-class society girl and a man beneath her station would become a popular device in screwball comedies, appealing to Depression audiences both as escapist entertainment and as satire of the idle rich and celebration of the hardworking poor.
Ironically, the rich come off a bit better in Platinum Blonde than in some later screwball comedies. Though the viewer is meant to identify with Stew’s working-class values, Ann can be surprisingly sympathetic and decent, e.g., loyally siding with her husband against her parents. Unfortunately, the class divide is finally too great, with unspoken expectations proving an impediment to the marriage, while Stew’s supportive gal-pal reporter friend Gallagher (Loretta Young) waits patiently in the wings.
The comic genius Preston Sturges believed that laughter is the best medicine, and that what people in hard times want is to forget their troubles and escape for 90 minutes or so into a world of lighthearted comedy, snappy repartee and slapstick silliness.
Possibly the screwiest of all screwball comedies, My Man Godfrey is the ultimate Depression-era satire of the idle rich and tribute to the noble poor.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.