Madame Zenobia (Gladys George) is a woman who has made a name for herself as a fortune teller in New York.
She is befriended by a young woman name Toni (Paulette Goddard) who has come to New York from Texas with only a few cents in her pocket and wants her fortune read.
Zenobia’s fortunes are bogus, of course, and she offers no real help to Toni, but she takes a liking to the girl and helps her get a job at the shooting gallery next door.
When Zenobia is injured, Toni offers to take her place in the fortune-telling business. But distractions affect Toni’s work when she falls for Brad (Ray Milland), a lawyer who one of Zenobia’s clients, Jo (Virginia Field) is dating.
Elliot Nugent directs 1943’s The Crystal Ball, a comedy produced by Paramount and distributed by United Artists.
The Crystal Ball‘s plot is fairly standard — a love triangle in which the audience is meant to root for the naive, idealistic small town girl (Toni) rather than the brash, big-city blonde (Jo). The story takes all of the familiar turns that come with the love triangle territory and offers very few surprises.
However, the film is still incredibly enjoyable to watch. For all of its typicality, the script does contain some wonderful, comedic dialogue.
The film is also aided by its highly capable cast. The Crystal Ball is a textbook example of how pleasant an otherwise average film can be if the performers have the talent and charisma to elevate the material they’re working with.
Paulette Goddard and Gladys George in particular shine in this film. They play well off of each other in the early scenes they share, with Goddard taking over as the film’s focus eventually.
These leading ladies not only bring to life likable, fun characters but also carry the majority of the film’s comedy, and with great success. All of the film’s wittiest moments involve Goddard, many while she’s under the “Zenobia” disguise. I would go so far as to call her performance here Lombard-esque, though the film as a whole doesn’t quite reach the bar set by Lombard’s best comedies.
The Crystal Ball is predictable, but it’s a fun watch with a truly delightful cast. The score: 4/5