Letty Robbins (Charlotte Greenwood) is a loud and energetic woman who works as a solicitor for a beauty parlor. She’s married to Tommy (Bert Roach), a far less exuberant man.
Tommy’s uncle Claude (Claude Gillingwater), a millionaire, comes to town for a visit. He and his granddaughters, flapper girls Ruth (Marion Byron) and Sally (Helen Foster), are staying at the posh beach hotel where Letty’s salon is. Not knowing who Claude or the girls are, she tries to sell them salon services. Claude takes an instant dislike to her, not realizing she’s married to Tommy.
Tommy hopes to secure an inheritance from Uncle Claude, but he knows Letty won’t impress the man, even before he’s heard of their encounter at the hotel. He falls into a scheme of wife exchange: his neighbor Grace (Patsy Ruth Miller) pretends to be married to him, and Grace’s husband Harry (Grant Withers) pretends to be married to Letty until Uncle Claude leaves.
Lloyd Bacon directs 1929’s So Long Letty, a Warner Bros. marital musical-comedy. The script was adapted by Robert Lord and Arthur Caesar, from a play by Oliver Morosco (which was based on a book by Elmer Harris). The story had previously been told on the screen in a 1920 silent film.
So Long Letty is a fast-talking talkie. The dialogue zips along to give the film a speed-of-light pace and is full of witty quips, including the declarations of “I’m so hot my husband can’t buy fire insurance!” and “You don’t want a wife, you want a sanitarium!”
Another quip, uttered by Letty, speaking of Tommy: “He’s not very much to look at, Judge, but he does lend atmosphere in the home! He lends more sphere than atmos, but I like him.”
The film also has some visual interest. Some of Letty’s costumes have really odd details to them — an asymmetrical hat, a jacket adorned by an enormous bow that’s half her size. (See the video below for a look at that outfit.) In the beauty parlor scenes, though they are few, the old hair/makeup/spa contraptions are fun to see as well.
The performances from the entire cast are great, particularly the central foursome of Letty, Grace, Tom, and Harry. At times very exaggerated, the performances work because they suit the film’s outrageous mood. And though exaggerated, the performances are still very natural in the sense that the characters seem real and the dialogue isn’t stiffly delivered.
The premise has high potential for hilarity and it fully lives up to that potential, which has been pretty rare in my viewing of comedies from any era. So often films in this genre seem promising, only to fall flat due to bad casting or a poor script. (Still, when done right, it is one of my favorite genres.)
So Long Letty doesn’t fall into those traps. The script is snappy, and the actors all seem dedicated to making the viewer laugh. With Charlotte Greenwood at the helm as rowdy party girl Letty, the film is a real riot.
Running at only an hour and fifteen minutes, So Long Letty is certainly worthy what little time it demands from the viewer for watch. This film is a barrel of fun. The score: 4.5/5