Maid’s Night Out (1938)

Bill Norman (Allan Lane) is the heir to a very successful dairy company, but he wants nothing to do with the family business. Instead, he has a great interest in studying tropical fish.

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(Image via Doctor Macro)

Bill’s father, Rufus (George Irving), isn’t too happy with his son’s life choices. So, he decides to make a bet. If Bill can go undercover as a milkman with the family dairy for an entire month, with no tardy mornings and no mistakes, he can use the family yacht for a research mission.

On his first day on the job, Bill delivers milk to the home of Sheila Harrison (Joan Fontaine). She’s a down-on-her-luck debutante, pressured by her mother to become engaged to Wally (William Brisbane) for his money. Bill mistakes her for a maid, and asks her out on a date.

Plenty of romantic complications and near-losses of Bill’s bet follow.

Maid’s Night Out was directed by Ben Holmes.

There’s a lot going on here, for a film so brief: a father-son feud over the son’s career choice, collisions between cars and fish carts, cases of mistaken identity, and a hate-turned-love screwball romance! By the end, a wild police chase enters the mix, in a high-energy and unexpected way to wrap up the plot.

Though none of these happenings are explored in particular depth, they bring plenty of opportunity for humor. There’s a whole lot of fun to be had, and the pace is generally kept up quite nicely.

Allan Lane is fun to watch, bringing a confident and quite carefree charm to his character. He and Joan Fontaine have wonderful chemistry and are so funny together. (That scene outside of her house, when they throw the brush at each other! So good.)

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(Image via TMDb)

As for that leading lady, Joan is adorable in this role, and her character is quite lovable. In addition to her scenes with Lane, she shares some wonderful banter with none other than Hedda Hopper, playing her mother, and Hilda Vaughn, playing Mary the maid.

Vaughn as Mary was a favorite of mine in the supporting cast, along with William Brisbane, portraying Sheila’s less-than-appealing but wealthy suitor, Wally. The character is a real dweeb, the opposite of Bill, and Brisbane plays him perfectly.

Maid’s Night Out is such a cute, pleasant, easy watch. The writing isn’t stellar, and the film isn’t objectively one of the greats, but I had such a wonderful time watching it. And, hey, if nothing else, it’s worth watching for its portrayal of a now-extinct profession: the milkman!

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4 thoughts on “Maid’s Night Out (1938)

  1. It’s interesting to compare this film with the one you reviewed right before it: both are from the 1930s, both are romance comedies, and both feature those odd, never-seen-again ’30s storylines. Yet, just a few paragraphs in, I knew that ‘Maid’s Night Out’ would be the more enjoyable and more watchable of the two. It just sounds like a whole mess of fun, and I’d love to see the two leads play off each other. And it’s weird to think that, back in the 1970s, our family was still getting milk delivered to our door – in glass bottles – by the local dairy!

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    • I buy from a local glass-bottle dairy, but I’m pretty sure they stopped delivering before I was even born haha. Still, they have a storefront, and the best ice cream and chocolate milk in the world!

      This one is definitely tons of fun. I’m not sure it’s available on DVD but I’d love to have it in my collection. Will definitely be watching it again. Just pure enjoyable fluff.

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