Cary Grant: actor, philanthropist, LSD enthusiast. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him. Has he ever starred in a bad movie? The double-feature disc Thirty Day Princess/Kiss and Make Up tests this question.
Kiss and Make Up features Grant as a society plastic surgeon and beauty doctor. He makes all the women lovely, and all their husbands hate him. Husband Edward Everett Horton explains that he had a nice, comfortable wife, and Grant has made her glamorous and high maintenance. He wants a divorce.
Once Horton's wife (Genevieve Tobin) is divorced, of course she has to marry Grant. If only Cary would realize that his sweet secretary (Helen Mack) is the perfect woman for him. Instead, she marries Horton.
The movie satirizes the beauty industry rather brutally, to the point where nobody comes off very well. Grant is cold and egotistical, and her rather deserves what he gets when he marries Tobin, his creation, the stereotyped society beauty. Horton, in his usual role as a plain-faced, plain-speaking type, is too aggrieved to be really sympathetic. Helen Mack is very sweet as the adoring secretary, but is pretty much a doormat (until the happy ending) (spoiler). The scene where she thinks she is being seduced is well played, though.
Also, there is a car chase with chloroform at the end that could have been funnier. There are a lot of glamor shots of the women in the beauty clinic, in tasteful 1930s dishabille, but that's the best I can say for this. I can't think of a comedy that's left me feeling more depressed.
Thirty Day Princess is about as easy to sum up: a banker (Edward Arnold) is floating a bond issue for the tiny nation of Sylvania, or maybe Freedonia. He brings the Princess (Sylvia Sydney) to America to "give them the ballyhoo". When she gets quarantined with mumps, he finds her exact double in a starving actress (Sylvia Sydney, of course). Crusading newspaper editor Cary Grant sets out to rake some muck on the bond scheme, but winds up falling for the counterfeit princess.
While the comedy isn't exactly laugh-filled, it's pretty sunny throughout. Sydney does a fine job in either role, with a "European" or New York accent. Arnold is a fine scoundrel of an honest banker - in 1934, too. And Grant is Grant, blustery, impulsive, romantic and lovable.
I don't know if I can recommend either of these movies. Kiss and Make Up could be watched just for the sheer misanthropy. Thirty Day Princess isn't bad, but it isn't better than a lot of movies of its type. It might have seemed better next to Kiss.
If you do watch either one, let me know what you think.