“THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D.” . 1941
For my first movie for “Screwball Comedy Month”, I’ve decided to kick off with “The Bride Came C.O.D.”, a romantic screwball comedy, starring Bette Davis and James Cagney in their second and final collaboration.
Bette Davis and James Cagney ignite the screen with laughs in this perdurable classic about an oil heiress, and a financially strapped pilot. Joan Winfield ( Bette Davis ) is the frivolous daughter of Texas oil Tycoon, Lucius Winfield ( Eugene Pallette ). When Joan meets bandleader, Alan Brice ( Jack Carson ), they fall in love contiguously, and four days after getting acquainted to each other they announce that they are going to elope. Pilot Steve Collins, who is low with money is scheduled to fly the couple to Las Vegas so they can get married. Upon finding out the news that Steve is the allocated pilot, he contacts Joan’s father, who disapproved of the elopement in the first place. He makes a deal with Lucius, and promises that he will prevent the marriage by returning her home to him safely. Alan and Joan board the aircraft, but Steve prevaricates a story by saying that there is a telephone call for Alan to get him off the plane. As soon as Alan steps off the aircraft, Steve flies off with Joan, which is considered an apparent kidnapping. Irate, Joan tries to jump out of the plane, but Steve discovers that Joan was unsuccessful with putting her parachute on properly, so Steve is forced to make a crash landing in the middle of the desert, not far from the ghost town of Bonanza. More laughs follow when Joan lands on a cactus on her derrière, and are pledged to spend the night in the desert. The next morning they distinguish a small town in the vast distance, and explore the dilapidated town, where they encounter the lone resident, ‘Pop’ Tolliver, ( Harry Davenport ), an amiable old man who provides them with propitious hospitality. Joan tries to convince ‘Pop’ that she was kidnapped, but Tolliver doesn’t auscultate until he hears the news of the kidnapping over the radio. In the meantime, Alan and Joan’s father are trying to determine their whereabouts. It doesn’t take long for them to track them down, and shortly after Alan arrives with a preacher in the hopes of getting married. Problems arise when they find out that Bonanza is in California, and their marriage in California is not valid.
“The Bride Came C.O.D.” is known today as a rather obscure film, not spotlighted in the list of top screwball comedies of all time, most notably because of the casting of Bette Davis in a comedic role, a change of pace from her usual powerhouse heavy tragic or melodramatic roles, to an efficacious light weight comedy. While Bette Davis is known as a dramatic actress, her commendable portrayal of Joan Winfield gave her the opportunity to disseminate her acting ability, and it gave Bette the chance to prove that she is equally adept at comedy as she is her nuanced dramatic performances. Though the film is not palatable with all audiences, I adore this movie, and feel that Bette with her feisty persona really highlights the picture, but that is not unusual as Bette is the highlight of any of her films.
James Cagney was also superb in his portrayal of Steve. This was a different role for him too, moving away from his usual gangster or tough guy type roles to screwball comedy. The film also features a stellar supporting cast, including Jack Carson, Harry Davenport, and Eugene Pallette, but to me the main cynosure of the film is Bette Davis. She is simply inimitable in everything she does, and could easily become accustomed to any role she had to portray, and her character in “The Bride Came C.O.D.” epitomizes her preeminent talent. With a resume of successful films and achievements that earned her altitudinous accolades during her illustrious career, Bette is one of the greatest stars to ever grace the silver screen. In my opinion, Bette Davis is a virtuoso of the film industry.
Ann Sheridan was originally scheduled to ply the Bette Davis role but was on suspension by Warners.
This was the second and final pairing of Bette Davis and James Cagney. Their first film they made together was “Jimmy The Gent” which was made in 1934.
The term “C.O.D.” of the title stands for ‘Collect on Delivery’. Some say ‘Comedy On Demand’.
Quotes from film:
Joan Winfield: “There must be something magnetic about a cactus that attracts me right to it, or visa versa.”
Joan Winfield: “Don’t you get lonesome being here all alone?”
Pop Tolliver: “No, I like people. Not seeing many of ’em keeps me liking ’em.”
Joan Winfield: ” [pushes the dresser against the door to keep Steve out, he climbs in the window behind her, singsong] I’d like to see I’d like to see you taaaaaake me.”
Steve Collins: “[mocking singsong voice] Anything to oblige, anything to oblige, anything to oblige a laaaaady.”
Bette Davis: Born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5th, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Died: October 6th, 1989 in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, France. Cause of death: Breast Cancer. Aged: 81.
James Cagney: Born James Francis Cagney, Jr. on July 17th, 1899 in New York. Died: March 30th, 1986 in Stanfordville, New York.