Biff (Gary Cooper) is a dentist who leads a fairly quiet life with his wife. It seems like a pleasant existence, but Biff isn’t completely happy, because he feels he may have lost the love of his life years ago.
Head back in time and Biff is plotting with his friend Hugo (Neil Hamilton) to win over a few ladies, Virginia Brush (Fay Wray) and Amy Lind (Frances Fuller). The trouble is, both guys are more interested in sassy, beautiful Virginia than the less forward, more reserved Amy.
Long story short, Virginia marries Hugo and a whole lot of drama ensues over the course of all of their lives, both in business and personally.
One Sunday Afternoon is directed by Stephen Roberts, based on the play by James Hagan and adapted for the screen by Grover Jones and William Slavens McNutt.
I didn’t realize when I taped this film from TCM that it’s a pre-code version of 1941’s Raoul Walsh film Strawberry Blonde. (Walsh also made a musical adaptation of the story in 1948, titled One Sunday Afternoon, which I have not seen.) This bit of ignorance on my part, unfortunately, led 1933’s One Sunday Afternoon to be a less-than-satisfying viewing experience, because I was constantly comparing it to the later version once I realized it was the same story.
Though Cooper gives a solid performance as Biff and the cast in general is good, they’re not nearly as captivating as the 1941 cast. Along with Cooper, Fay Wray gives the film’s best effort. Frances Fuller in particular lacks the spark that Olivia de Havilland gave to the same character, and her chemistry with Cooper is not as high as that of de Havilland/Cagney.
Though the story is much the same, this 1933 version is somehow not as engrossing as the 1941 film. This is probably due in part to the performances, but the actors can’t be completely to blame. The drama is not as high, there are no laughs and the overall chemistry of all of the film’s elements that was present in the 1941 film is lacking.
One positive here is the great wardrobe styling for Amy and Virginia. It showcases the differences between their personalities perfectly. Both have great outfits, but the styles are very different. Virgina’s clothes are more flashy, more over-the-top while Amy’s are cute but not extravagant.
Had I not seen Strawberry Blonde prior to watching One Sunday Afternoon, I probably would have enjoyed it a whole lot more. It isn’t a bad film – far from that – but it just doesn’t compare. This 1933 version was a box office flop (and the only Gary Cooper film to lose money during that time), while Strawberry Blonde was a hit, and I can see why after viewing both of them. The score: 2.5/5