Mirabel Miller (Frances Dee) is a stenographer… and a dreamer. Bored of her small-town, budget-conscious life, she’s decided to make a change for herself. As a baby step, she’s skipping breakfast and lunch each day to save money for a fancy hat from Paris.
Scrimping won’t be Mirabel’s M.O. for long, though. She has just won a prize of $5,000 from a sweepstakes contest. She goes to her banker for advice, and he tells her she should save the money, giving herself an allowance of about three dollars a week. But Mirabel decides that she wants to truly live, even if only for a month, so she takes the dough and heads to New York City.
Checking in at one of the city’s ritziest hotel, lovely Mirabel is immediately mistaken for a wealthy society gal. And her case of mistaken identity isn’t the only one at the hotel — Prince Allesandro of Allesandria (Francis Lederer) is working there, posing as a bellboy.
The Gay Deception was directed by none other than William Wyler, one of old Hollywood’s greatest directors, known for such classics as Roman Holiday, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Ben-Hur.
Though not as well-remembered as Wyler’s later “princess undercover” flick, The Gay Deception is a delightful little romantic comedy. It is a romance of the fluffiest type, since “Sandro” is actually a prince, placing Frances Dee in the Cinderella role of an American girl who finds love with a wealthy European royal.
Despite the various mistaken identities of the plot, the film plays very much like a standard romance, with not much intrigue or surprise added by Mirabel’s new socialite persona or Sandro’s undercover life. It’s a simple story where man meets woman, and they get off on the wrong foot (Sandro destroys Mirabel’s fancy Parisian hat!), only to discover over time that they’ve fallen in love.
Though it doesn’t break much new ground in terms of plot, The Gay Deception brings plenty of laughs. My favorite scenes are those in which Sandro has reveals himself as a prince, but Mirabel doesn’t believe him for a second. Instead, she throws sly verbal jabs at him, prodding him to give up the charade. I found it all to be very amusing.
Adding to the laughs, Lederer and Dee both bring heaps of charm to their roles and are delightful to watch together. Lederer’s performance is very high-energy, and their banter — delivered with a hefty dose of sweet chemistry, beneath their arguments and misunderstandings — is very fun to watch.
The Gay Deception is a practically-forgotten romance, but unfortunately so. It may not land among the ranks of director Wyler’s very best films (which would be a difficult feat, given his reputation), but it’s a highly enjoyable watch bolstered by two lovely lead performances. I, for one, would readily watch it again! The score: 4/5