Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #23 If You Could Only Cook  ★★
Additionally, the film had a dynamite leading couple with the reserved yet amiable British star Herbert Marshall as Jim and screwball comedy legend Jean Arthur as Joan. (Though Arthur had been making movies since the silent era, it was only until her breakthrough role in 1934’s Whirlpool that she came into her own as a leading lady. Though it didn’t require the same comedy chops as John Ford’s The Whole Town’s Talking , her role as Joan demonstrated her effortless knack as a comedienne.) It also stars a scene-stealing Lionel Stander as Rossini’s second-in-command Flash, a nosey wiseguy who sounds a little like if Harvey Fierstein crawled down a Brooklyn cabbie’s throat.
But for its delicious plot and wonderful cast, If You Could Only Cook fails to come together due to Seiter’s flat, lifeless direction. Though Seiter occasionally made decent films—his Laurel and Hardy vehicle Sons of the Desert (1933) is a legit all-timer—he was not himself a particularly compelling filmmaker. His compositions are disinterested, his scenes inert, and his handling of his leading couple surprisingly dull. The one thing a screwball shouldn’t be is boring.