|The Devil and Miss Jones
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In one of those plot devices so dear to writers of romantic comedy (in this case, the venerable Norman Krasna, of Wife vs. Secretary and Mr. and Mrs. Smith), financier Charles Coburn goes undercover as a shoe salesman in a Manhattan department store that's a tiny part of his portfolio, hoping to discover why the employees hate him so much. He has the luck to be assigned to the counter next to Jean Arthur, rasping out one of her inimitable hard-nosed working-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold performances, who befriends Coburn and introduces him to her boyfriend (Robert Cummings)--the leader of the labor unrest. Directed by the stodgy Sam Wood (King's Row), the film flirts with '30s radicalism but settles for prudent class reconciliation: turns out that all the employees want is a little bit of gratitude and respect. Coburn got his first Academy Award nomination for his gruff but ultimately lovable coot (and won the Oscar two years later, opposite Arthur in The More the Merrier), a part he was to play for much of the rest of his career. Some startling deep-focus effects suggest that cinematographer Harry Stradling may have been spying on Citizen Kane, shooting just down the hall at RKO. Ultimately, though, it's Arthur who gives the film its authenticity and tremulous charm. --Dave Kehr
- What a Character!
John P. Merrick (Charles Coburn) is the devil, or at least that is what his employees think. There have been several uprisings in the company, and the events are topped off with a stuffed dummy likeness of Mr. Merrick. The real Merrick is fed up, so he decides to spy undercover. He takes a job as a slipper salesman alongside two women, the kindhearted Mary Jones (Jean Arthur) and sweet Elizabeth Ellis (Spring Byington). Mary's boyfriend Joe (Robert Cummings) is the ringleader of the plot against Merrick stores. This angers Merrick, but he quickly learns why the employees hate working there with secret shoppers breathing down their necks and selfish bosses. Merrick softens up thanks to the company he keeps, and the comedy mounts on a trip to Coney Island.
This is a breezy, fun film with a very lovable cast. Arthur is sweet as always and Cummings is a wonderful match for her, but it is Coburn who is the real star. It is interesting to see such an elderly character actor as the star, but that is exactly what he is and he carries the film well. He is appropriately funny, sweet, uppity, and lovable.
Check this one out. You won't be disappointed. ...more info
- GOOD FUN FROM 1941.
A very funny comedy from 1941. Coburn is cast as John P. Merrick, the world's richest man, who decides to infiltrate one of his holdings - a department store - to ferret out union organisers who have targeted him as being responsible for the miserable conditions his employees work under. Merrick is subjected to many indignities by the management, finally ending up in the shoe department alongside Mary Jones [Jean Arthur]. Mary thinks Merrick destitute, takes pity on him and shows him the intricacies of the department. The old boy attends union meetings and carefully notes everyone there, but the abuse from the store's management becomes intolerable - then he meets Elizabeth Ellis [Spring Byington] - and has a change of heart... One of the most sparkling comedies from the 194O's, this film was deftly directed by Sam Wood and wonderful performances from the entire cast make for an enjoyable 92 minutes....more info
- A Warm and Charming Comedy
"You're just one person against the world unless you've got someone." -- Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn shine in this underrated RKO classic. Perhaps because it isn't zany enough to fall into the true screwball category this warm and charming comedy often gets overlooked when the genre is spoken about. Sam Wood's direction, sets by William Cameron Menzies, a nice score from Roy Webb, and Norman Krasna's funny screenplay all add up to a good time for classic film lovers.
Charles Coburn is simply adorable as the maligned millionaire who goes undercover in a department store he didn't even know he owned until employees burned a life size dummy of him in effigy which makes the papers. Getting hired on as Tom Higgens so he can root out the people behind it doesn't have quite the outcome he'd intended. Immediately befriended by Mary (Jean Arthur) in the shoe department who loans him 50 cents for lunch because she thinks he's broke, his purpose becomes less clear with each passing day.
You'll find yourself chuckling as Merrick (Coburn) begins to take down names of management rather than employees in his "doomsday book" for what he experiences. What he also begins to experience is living, finding a friend in the sweet Mary and romance with her pal Elizabeth (Spring Byington). Robert Cummings is delightful as Mary's boyfriend, Joe O'Brien, who also happens to be the idealistic voice behind those workers revolting! S.S. Sakall is also endearing as Merrick's valet.
There are some fun scenes on the boardwalk and a mix-up which nearly lands them all in jail until Joe does some fast talking. Arthur never seemed more vulnerable than in a sweet scene on the beach where it is she who asks Joe to marry her, and gets turned down because he doesn't want to disappoint her. As Merrick gets more and more involved in his undercover life, and further from his real one, he begins to look at his wealth as something of a handicap!
A great ending which will make you glad you watched this one push a good film over the top into the 5 star range. Don't miss Coburn's fight with a young brat he's hired to make him look good. It's a riot! ...more info
- ONE OF COBURNS BEST ROLES
I just caught this film one late night on TCM. I was familiar with the title but had never seen it before. What a simply wonderful comedy which stars the beautiful Jean Arthur, the gruff character actor Charles Coburn, as well as Bob Cummings and Edmund Gwenn. Coburn is J.P. Merrick, the millionaire owner of a large department store. When the employees of the store start trying to organize a union, he decides to go undercover to find out who the ringleaders are. He takes a job as a shoe salesman calling himself Tom Higgins. He is immediately confronted on his first day by the shoe department manager Mr. Hooper (Gwenn) who plays a nasty role for once and tells Higgins he had the lowest intelligence score he's ever seen.
Tom is assigned to sell women's slippers and befriends two women In the department, Mary (Arthur) and Elizabeth (played by Spring Byington). When Tom says he doesn't eat lunch, the women take pity on him because they think he's broke and give him money and some of their food. Later Tom agrees to meet Mary at night and soon finds himself in the middle of a hopeful union meeting. It turns out that Mary and her boyfriend Joe (Cummings) are the ringleaders and even use "poor" Tom as an example of a man who's down on his luck due to being tossed out by his previous employers.
At work, Tom is constantly under criticism from Hooper who thinks he's too old for the job. Tom keeps a notebook and writes in bold letters "Fire department manager!!" He wants to do a good job and so he his butler come in with the daughter of one of the servants to buy a dozen shoes. The plan goes hilariously awry when the girl screams she doesn't like the shoes and Hooper decides to take over AND get credit for the sale.
And so it goes with Merrick as the fish out of water, learning not only about these employees but himself as well. In another scene Tom and Elizabeth join Joe and Mary for a day at Coney Island beach. Tom brings along some very expensive wine but the others think he was taken with some cheap stuff and it makes for a classic clash of cultures.
The Film was directed by Sam Wood who made such classics as Goodbye Mr. Chips, A Night at the Opera, And the Pride of the Yankees. The film is very Capra-esque however with great performances from the entire cast. Hilarious, poignant and warm.
Reviewed by Tim Janson
- When will Devil and miss jones be on DVD ???
I am waiting for this fun movied to be on DVD or bluray ....
Come on ....
Plus African Queen ...
- Jean Arthur is a delight in this wonderful comedy!
Charles Coburn plays J.P. Merrick, the wealthy, sinister millionaire and owner of his own department store, where the overworked and underpayed workers, led by Joe O'Brien (Robert Cummings) are protesting. In order to eliminate all the ringleaders of the employee protest movement, Merrick, who's face isn't known by any of the employees, changes his name to Tom Higgins and becomes an employee in his own department store. While working in the dreaded shoe department, Higgins meets the charming Mary Jones (Jean Arthur), who takes pity on Higgins and befriends him, not knowing that he's her evil boss.
Higgins, when not gathering the names of protesters in his organization, also falls for one of his "co-workers", Elizabeth Ellis (Spring Byington). Higgins is faced with a problem however, when he discovers that Mary Jones' boyfriend is none other than Joe O'Brien. Yet over time Higgins' unlikely friendship with these people makes him forget about his sinister original plan and he becomes a new man who cares for his employees.
Now that the equally great comedy with Charles Coburn and Jean Arthur, "The More the Merrier", has been released on dvd, why can't this underated classic get a dvd release? Sure, some of the dialogue is dated and corny, but that's just part of the charm with an old-fashioned comedy like "The Devil and Miss Jones". Jean Arthur was terrific and absolutly charming as usual, but Charles Coburn really stole the show with his great performance. Charles Coburn was an incredible actor who could play very likable characters, or the worst of villians, as in "Kings Row". Robert Cummings was good in this as well, although his speech at the police station was vomit-inducing. The supporting cast, especially Spring Byington and Edmund Gwenn (who plays the grouchy section manager of the shoe department where Higgins works) is wonderful. Surely we won't have to wait too much longer before this great comedy is released on dvd! ...more info
- A classic too long overlooked
I adore this movie. It has a charm that time can't dilute. The references to labor unrest and class differences resonate in today's world, and the performances are lovely. A true standard for romantic comedy. The term sounds more frivolous than this small jewel of a movie deserves. ...more info
- Coburn Stars In This Charmer
Charles Coburn was a funny man. I wish had more movies with him in them, as he usually makes me laugh. He did here, and this movie was on it's way to a rating of "10" when it bogged down midway through and never really regained momentum. It did have a nice sentimental ending, though.
Coburn, meanwhile, was outstanding as the super-rich owner of a department store who goes "underground" as a shoe salesman in his store to find out the cause of worker unrest. Then romance takes over the story: Coburn and Spring Byington and then Bob Cummings and Jean Arthur and the story loses a lot of it comedy touch and its zip.
Overall, the film still exudes charm and Coburn, despite third billing, IS the star of this film. I'm sure a number of fans of this film are disappointed it still isn't out on DVD.
- Fun in Past Tense
"The Devil and Miss Jones" is one of those "fun" movies out of the '30's and '40's. Back then Hollywood had a varied sense of humor within a general framework of decency. As such, there were a lot of "screwball" comedies that might not always be understood by all generations but at least could be viewed by all generations. Nowadays the rating of the movies restrict their audiences (and, generally, for good reason). Thus we end up with cartoon and animal-themed movies for little kids, inane junk (like "Joe Dirt"-sorry Robby) for pre-teens, silly romance comedies for teenagers, and profane whatevers for adults. There was an art to making a movie that could be enjoyed by all generations and comedy was one genre that generally attracts all generations (what pre-puberty juvenile would want to watch a romantic drama even if it was rated G). That was what kept running through my mind as I watched "The Devil and Miss Jones".
The premise is as fertile as it is silly; a multi-millionaire is bothered by labor unrest in one of his least important businesses. To find out what the problem is, he mascarades as a new employee and the fun begins. There is a fair amount of social commentary mixed into the script but nothing too serious. (You understand that from the disclaimer at the movie's beginning). The various different hijinks that arise are enjoyably funny. I may not have laughed out loud but I did smile a lot; both inwardly and outwardly. Movies like these are required to have a happy ending and there is an interesting twist to this one.
The acting in "The Devil and Miss Jones" is pretty good with the best preformance given by Charles Colburn. Jean Arthur does comedy well and this movie serves as a reminder of that fact. Bob Cummings gets a bit much at times but, then, he's supposed to. There are plenty of other great efforts including an appropriately reserved preformance by Spring Byington.
"The Devil and Miss Jones" is not a great movie; it is a good movie. In its' own way, it is a testament to the quality that was Hollywood two or three generations ago. Subtle is not a word often used to describe modern cinema. This movie reminds us how disappointing that is. ...more info
- Bright,, good looking & she works hard for a living too.
That's Mary Jones, played by Jean Arthur, I'm thinking, at her best. She is a too good to be true store clerk at a major New York department store, in this surprisingly good comedy with a political point of view. Charles Coburn in a performance worthy of an academy award nomination plays JP Merrick. He is the wealthiest man in the world & this department store is a tiny piece of his portfolio. A picture of him hasn't been seen for years & he's rather reclusive. But some employees hate him & are agitating for change. He decides to go undercover & find out who is responsible for the rebellion & crush them. He gets a job as a shoe clerk & is soon befuddled & in trouble with his supervisor who views him as an old incompetant. He's befriended by Mary who feels sorry for him. He has even forgot to bring money for lunch.
He is invited to a secret meeting of the store employees who want some changes from the working conditions & low wages they endure. The ringleader is Mary's boyfriend, Joe played by Robert Cummings in a somtimes over the top performance. He basically bitches about everything rebels against anything. He also becomes friends with Merrick as does Elizabeth (Spring Byington) with whom he develops a romance. Merrick is not a devil, he just was ignorant of the employees modest demands, a little respect & appreciation for their hard work. The real problem is the managers Merrick had put in charge of the store.
These old movies seem to rap up very quickly & before you know it the whole store in on holiday sailing to Hawaii. A good solid comedy of its time, right before the war....more info
- Jupiter comes down to Earth...
in this very funny story of how the richest man in the world decides to go undercover as a shoe salesman in a store he forgot he owned until labor agitators hang him in effigy. It's Charles Coburn's intention to infiltrate the labor movement and bring these "wrongdoers" to justice or at least unemployment. He doesn't bargain on what happens when he begins to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, and how meeting with the peppy Miss Jones (Jean Arthur) will change his outlook on labor and ultimately life.
Jean Arthur is very appealing as this working class heroine, but it's Charles Coburn who runs away with the picture. His transformation from a Rockefeller-type cold as ice businessman into a tuna popover eating funlover is aces, especially in his dealings with the surprisingly unpleasant Edmund Gwenn as the manager of the shoe department. Ironic that Gwenn returned to the department store scene a few years later to buck authority himself as Kris Kringle in "Miracle on 34 Street". A point worth noting is that much of the dialogue concerns the misunderstanding about Coburn's true identity, and his consequently being abused as an older worker with limited skills in an emerging modern world. Although 60 years ago, this still rings true today, and gives us some food for thought.
This picture has only two things going against it: First is its terrible title. Not only does it not really make any sense given the plot of the film, but it later got co-opted as the title of a famous porn film, "Devil IN Miss Jones", so that even the librarian where I took this out gave me the once over, thinking I was taking out a smutty film. I'll bet few people ever do rent this movie because of its dubious monniker. The second thing that's not so hot is a police station scene where Robert Cummings tries (and fails) to be a Capra-esque "ordinary man" hero bucking authority by appealing to the Founding Fathers' principles. The scene is so bad it brings the movie to a complete standstill; I was afraid it would be downhill from there, but it picked up again. My advice is that should you ever rent or buy this film, as soon as Cummings enters the station, fast forward to the next scene to save yourself some grief.
Other than those two points, "The Devil and Miss Jones" is a real winner, and I still give it five stars for a funny script and Coburn's marvelous performance....more info
- Charles Coburn at his best with a great supporting cast!
The star of this video is Charles Coburn and not Jean Arthur: the comic old goat steals the movie once again, as he did in "The More the Merrier," and other comedies from this era. But the supporting cast is superb: the comedic Jean Arthur, Bob Cummings from the early TV sitcom, "Love that Bob," Spring Byington, who starred in George Kaufman's "You Can't Take It With You," and Edmund Gwenn, the lovable Kris Kringle of "Miracle on 34th Street."
Determined to uncover the union organizers who are creating unrest among the other employees in his department store, Charles Coburn, the wealthy owner of the department store and business tycoon, goes undercover and poses as a clerk and works humbly behind the counter, and is abused and bullied by management until befriended by Jean Arthur, Bob Cummings, and Spring Byington....This movie is a fun indictment on capitalism--when such was allowed in Hollywood, prior to the blacklisting days of Joe McCarthy--and a call to more socialistic values....When would a business tycoon take his entire staff of employees on a cruise to Hawaii just for the fun of it? Move over, all you CEOs....If only all such miraculous conversions could transpire in the workplace within a span of 92 minutes!...more info
- Charles Coburn steals the show once again!
The star of this video is Charles Coburn and not Jean Arthur: the comic old goat steals the movie once again, as he did in "The More the Merrier," and other comedies from this era. But the supporting cast is superb: the comedic Jean Arthur, Bob Cummings from the early TV sitcom, "Love that Bob," Spring Byington, who starred in George Kaufman's "You Can't Take It With You," and Edmund Gwenn, Kris Kringle himself of "Miracle on 34th Street."
Determined to find the employees creating a union problem in his store, Charles Coburn, the wealthy owner of the department store and business tycoon, goes undercover and poses as a clerk and works humbly behind the counter, and is abused and bullied by management until befriended by Jean Arthur, Bob Cummings, and Spring Byington....This movie is a fun indictment on capitalism--when such was allowed in Hollywood, prior to the blacklisting days of Joe McCarthy--and a call to more socialistic values. When would a business tycoon take his entire staff of store employees on a cruise to Hawaii just for the fun of it? Move over, all you CEOs....If only all such miraculous conversions could occur in the workplace within a span of 92 minutes!...more info
- Can't Beat "The Devil"
"The Devil & Miss Jones" is an enjoyable, charming, funny 1940s comedy directed by Sam Wood starring one of my favorite actresses Jean Arthur.
It's odd that Sam Wood would be a part of this film. "The Devil and Miss Jones" has a lot of leftist ideas. Workers fighting back against big business. Unions. But Sam Wood was a Republican and actually named names to the House of UnAmerican Activities. The funny connection here is that Wood was pretending to be something he wasn't. I'm sure if Wood had told the studio I'm not directing this movie, they would let him walk off, and probably fire him after. That's the way the studios worked back then, but, Charles Coburn who playes J.P. Merrick is also pretending to be something he's not; a worker. A man who can relate to the working class.
Now of course a lot of people are probably not thinking about this because who really goes through the trouble to figure out the politics of a film's director? But it is something to think about when you watch this movie.
"The Devil and Miss Jones" is about J.P. Merrick (Charles Coburn) who owns a store where the workers are starting to revolt. They demand a union where they we be given security. Merrick of course is against this idea and after an ad in the paper bringing the issue to the public Merrick decides he needs to send a detective in to find out who is the leader, but Merrick decides to do it himself. There he meets a group of characters whom meet him with different reactions. First is Miss Jones (Arthur) a kind hearted co-worker who gives Merrick some lunch money. Then there is Hooper, (Edmund Gwenn) the floor manager, who takes an instant dislike to Merrick and he to him. And finally there is Elizabeth (Spring Byington) another co-worker who develops a crush on Merrick. All of these people take Merrick into their confidence and Merrick thinks he will soon find out who the troublemaker is. But there are a lot of funny scenes that take place before that happens.
You can probably guess where the movie is going to go. Will Merrick report the leader, who turns out to be Joe (Robert Cummings) as in "average Joe". Will Merrick have a change of heart and see things from the workers point of view? And will Merrick fall in love with Elizabeth?
But thats all besides the point. Here is a wonderful old-fashion comedy that should please film buffs greatly. It has a good cast, some funny lines and was even nominated for 2 Oscars; "Best Supporting Actor (Coburn)" and "Best Original Screenplay (Norma Krasna)". And to top it all off it has Jean Arthur.
S.Z. Sakall also co-stars as Coburn's butler. And William Demarest, perhaps best known for appearing in several Preston Sturges comedies has a brief role as a detective.
Bottom-line: Entertaining comedy that has some leftist views but it shouldn't upset anyone with its ideas. Mostly some good old-fashion fun. You know, it's one of those movies they don't make anymore....more info
- A Classic
Among the Classic Film couples, there are Garbo and Gilbert, Gable and Crawford, Tracy and Hepburn, but I have discovered that there is also Arthur and Coburn, an unlikely couple, but nevertheless one of the most engaging.
Two films: "The More the Merrier" and the one I'm reviewing now, "The Devil and Miss Jones" are the testimony of the great chemistry and rapport that existed between this two great comedians, Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn.
Last night I watched this wonderful Comedy for the first time and believe me, I hadn't seen a Comedy of this quality and class, in a long time. It's so perfect that it's difficult to really describe the effect it had on me.
The plot of the film tells the story of what happens when a millionaire (Coburn), who among many, many assets, owns a Department Store in New York, arranges to be infiltrated into the Store as a simple Shoes (more precisely "Slipper") Salesman, in order to investigate who, among its employees, participated as agitators and were responsible for the hanging of his effigy, when protesting against the Store's policies regarding workers, working conditions and Unions.
Among the employees of the Store, Coburn meets fellow Shoes Saleslady, Jean Arthur, who befriends him, not only believing he's an employee, but also a poor, almost destitute old man.
Coburn is delightful as the millionaire; I'd dare to say that it's his best role ever, along with the one he played in "The More the Merrier". Jean Arthur plays much more a "human" character than a plain-comedic one and Bob Cummings is also very good as her boyfriend and the main "agitator", getting to play together a couple of very believable love scenes.
An excellent supporting cast includes among others, Spring Byington as Arthur's sweet friend and co-worker, Edmund Gwenn as the rather nasty Head of the Shoe Department and S.Z. Sakall as Coburn's butler.
Kudos to Norman Krasna for his excellent screenplay and for the handling of social issues regarding Labour, which are timeless and still very pertinent.
This film ought to be on DVD.