When you combine comedy with art and literature you get one intellectual satirical farce, but when you add the comedic talents of Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas, the aftermath results in one enduring masterpiece.
This statement truly sums up Theodora Goes Wild, a perennial Screwball classic featuring Irene Dunne in what is considered her first comedy and Melvyn Douglas who is primarily known for his adeptness in this genre.
Irene Dunne is prominently known for her creative flair in Screwball Comedy. In a career that spanned forty years, Dunne exhibited her masterful dexterity in a plethora of comedies that showcased her versatility and talent for portraying many different types of jocular characters.
Theodora Goes Wild was directed by Richard Boleslawski, and written for the screen by Mary McCarthy and Sidney Buchman. This was director Richard Boleslawski’s second last picture. He passed away the following year shortly after his work on The Last Of Mrs. Cheyney.
The film revolves around the story of Theodora Lynn ( Irene Dunne ) who under the pseudonym of Caroline Adams is a highly acclaimed author of a scandalous book titled “The Sinner” that is causing controversy among the townsfolk in Lynnfield, but little do they know that the towns own Theodora is the mastermind behind the novel.
Complications arise when the books illustrator, Michael Grant ( Melvyn Douglas ) tracks Theodora down and follows her home to Lynnfield in the hopes of eluding Theodora away from her aunts so she can live her life to the fullest. This leaves Theodora facing a tough decision. Should she escape her formidable existence in Lynnfield or should she retain her secret about the book and continue on with her confining routine?
In Theodora Goes Wild, we witness two different sides of Irene Dunne. During the first half of the film, Dunne’s character possesses a lack of sophistication , but once she flees to New York she goes through a personality metamorphosis and displays complete witticism. When home in Lynnfield, Theodora spends most of her time in complete seclusion. Her aunts who are rather refined and polished pay little attention to Theodora. Instead they engage themselves in the towns gossip and socializing with Rebecca Perry ( Spring Byington ) who does nothing but crave for stories and rumours she can spread around.
When Theodora goes to New York she sneaks off without her aunts cognizance. While in New York she meets the books illustrator, Michael Grant who is immediately infatuated in Theodora and follows her back to Lynnfield where he poses as a gardener while he implores her to stop living her life vicariously through her novel by breaking out of her solitary existence in Lynnfield where she lives under the strict orders of her two aunts.
Eventually Theodora takes Michael’s advice and retreats to New York where she turns from a small town frump to being very riotous and subversive now that all has been revealed about Caroline Adams. From there on Theadora masquerades as Caroline Adams and finds herself amid scandalous behavior which makes her an eminent target for the gossip columns and the folks back in Lynnfield.
Compared to a large majority of the Screwball comedies of the thirties, Theodora Goes Wild is relatively unknown. This is partly due to the misgivings of the director Richard Boleslawski who hailed from a Polish background and completed most of his studies in Moscow. By the time Boleslawski arrived in Hollywood his resume only consisted of a few European made productions that were abandoned shortly after their release.
From the witty script to the astute and crisp dialogue, Theodora Goes Wild boasts the inimitable talents of Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas who prove once again that they were consummates of the film industry.
Originally Irene Dunne was hesitant about taking on the role as Theodora. She had never appeared in a comedy before and was unsure whether she could play this sort of role. Years later Dunne never did understand why she garnered recognition for the film as she believed that it was very overrated.
Marian Marsh was in a Hollywood Reporter cast list for this movie, but she did not appear.
Irene Dunne: Irene Marie Dunne on December 20th, 1898 in Louisville, Kentucky. Died: September 4th, 1990 in Los Angeles, California. Aged 91.
Melvyn Douglas: Born Melvyn Edouard Hesselberg on April 5th, 1901 in Macon, Georgia. Died: August 4th, 1981 in New York. Aged 80.
2 thoughts on “THEODORA GOES WILD ( 1936 )”
I so wanted to love this film. But to me it pales in comparison to The Awful Truth, mostly because Melvyn Douglas has too little magnetism.
Thanks for the post on Theodora Goes Wild. I feel in love with this movie way back when no one seemed to have heard of it. Until fairly recently, it’s been hard to find the film or anything much about it. I’m glad it has now come into its own. Favorite line: “Oh, are these your etchings.” The first time I heard Irene say that, I doubled over laughing.