Service de Luxe (1938)

Service de Luxe (1938)

Run time: 85 min | Comedy
Director: Rowland V. Lee
Writers: Vera Caspary, Bruce Manning
Stars: Constance Bennett, Vincent Price, Charles Ruggles
A nifty romantic comedy with chic Bennett as a hard-headed businesswoman running a service bureau that will tackle any job. Sharp and polished.

5 responses to “Service de Luxe (1938)”

  1. tfsadmin says:

    Since Thriller seems to be played every five minutes on the radio following the death of Michael Jackson, I've found myself lecturing the kids about the wonderful, 55-year career of the legendary Vincent Price.

    Well here's where that wonderful career began – the male lead in his debut feature! His role here couldn't be any further removed from the genre he's famous for. This romantic screwball comedy sees Price play the heart-throb hero(?!) opposite comedy actress Constance Bennett (who, incidentally, my mother was named after).

    Helen Murphy (Bennett) runs the titular service which caters for the every need of its customers, from meals to shopping, finances to social arrangements. Constance is sick of running around after men (her main customers) and seeks an independent, self-sufficient partner.

    She meets one in the form of Robert Wade (Price) who, after a case of mistaken identity (have you ever seen a 30s comedy in which this didn't happen?), treats her like a real woman. Unfortunately, Murphy's business-like lifestyle clashes with Wade's vision of the ideal woman – a homely child-bearer who lets the man pay for everything.

    So Murphy lies and hides the truth of her real occupation – with hilarious consequences. Naturally Wade hates Murphy's service (remember, he doesn't know she's behind it!) which he finds unnecessary intrusive. This of course causes Murphy to perpetuate the deceit.

    There's plenty of madcap behaviour as Wade's now antiquated views of women force Murphy to use underhanded tactics to win his heart. Bennett is great as always and Price is also very good, although no Cary Grant. There's also a supporting cast of zany characters including Mischa Auer (mad Russian chef who constantly consults his spirit guide), Charles Ruggles (eccentric old businessman) and Helen Broderick (dumb romantic dreamer).

    The comedy is often predictable as Wade sets about selling his new innovative tractor idea and gets himself accidentally engaged to the wrong person. However, it's all very likable and sweet and makes for a perfect afternoon matinée.

    Considering Price makes his feature film debut here, it is amazing to see how comfortable he is and how consistent his look and persona are with later roles. The ever-present 'tache is obviously on show, as is that slight southern twang and dignified manner. To be fair, the 27-year old Price looks exactly here as he does in 'The House on Haunted Hill' – 20 years later! And there's an interesting scene in which Price jokingly talks about madness in his family, as he slowly and menacingly advances towards his finance – an eerie forecast of things to come…

  2. IMDBReviewer says:

    Fun comedy. A bit labored in parts, but enjoyable. Mischa Auer as a Russian chef who talks to his spirit guide and threatens at a crisis moment to return to his job at the Sara Goode Waffle Shop is a hoot. Constance Bennett is rather bland and forgettable, but it's fun to see Vincent Price six years before the classic "Laura". He looks much you would expect a young Vincent Price to look, but he sounds quite different. It's before he started doing the "Mid-Atlantic" accent that many actors affected in the 1930s and 1940s. Unfortunately, the great Helen Broderick isn't given enough to do in this film and the bland Constance Bennett is given too much.

  3. tfsadmin says:

    Seeing Vincent Price fall in love on a cruise ship on his way to New York makes you think that this film will be set on a luxury cruise ship. As it happens, the woman he falls in love with is the managing director of a dating agency who arranges marriages. There should have been more scenes on the ship because they fell in love too quickly. It needed more character development to make their alliance more credible. As it turns out, it's not a bad film, neither is it a good film because of what's missing. It's an okay film which could have been better, but that's not down to the actors, it was down to the script. For Vincent Price fans it's watching to see what he did after 'Tower of London'.

  4. IMDBReviewer says:

    While many of his future films would be unintentionally funny, Vincent Price, already a veteran of the Broadway stage, would make his screen debut as the romantic lead in that popular genre of 30's comedy known as screwball. Here, he works with a master actress of the art of screwball comedy: Constance Bennett, playing a wealthy businesswoman who tangles with Price's tractor inventor, and finds herself in a battle of the sexes. Price, believing a woman would be happier as a wife than as a businesswoman, struggles to be in control in relationships after a lifetime of being controlled by women, now having a fiancée (Joy Page) who seems intent on doing just that.

    Bennett and Price exchange tons of witty dialog with acerbic side comments from her aide-de-camp (the always officious Helen Broderick) and deal with interferences from outside parties until they are free to admit how they feel. Charlie Ruggles and Mischa Auer add to the already eccentric mix of characters by tossing out dialog like a stripper tosses gloves and a chef tosses salad. There certainly have been much funnier screwball comedies, particularly those which perfected that art form ("My Man Godfrey", "The Awful Truth"), but combining intelligent dialog with wit and an element of truth, this ends up an almost forgotten "sleeper" of the genre.

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