Joe Adams (Cary Grant) is a gambling ship owner, willing to do just about anything to make a quick buck. He’s about to sail off to Havana when he and his business partner Zepp (Paul Stewart) receive draft notices. War is coming, and men are needed to fight.
But Joe’s not interested, believing he’s done enough fighting in his life. He decides to avoid the draft by taking an assumed identity, Joe Bascopolous — a man who has been classified 4-F, unable to fight.
Back on the money trail he goes. When he’s approached by Dorothy Bryant (Laraine Day), who is selling tickets to a War Relief charity event, Joe gets an idea: hold a fake charity gambling night with the War Relief organization, keeping the profits for himself.
Mr. Lucky was directed by H. C. Potter. The screenplay was written by Milton Holmes and Adrian Scott, from a story by Holmes. This was Cary Grant’s first film with solo above-the-title billing.
I’ve seen most of Cary Grant’s films, but this one had escaped me for some reason. I’d heard of it, but hadn’t gotten around to watching it. Once I finally recorded it, I left it sitting on my DVR longer than I’m willing to admit! I’m glad I finally got around to it, not only because it marked a significant step in Grant’s ascent to super-stardom, but also purely because it’s an enjoyable film.
At the beginning of the film, Joe has to be one of Cary’s least-likable characters. He’s a scheming gambler not only trying to dodge military service, but also trying to steal money from a war relief charity! He’s a man of many sins.
But Cary Grant is impossible to hate. He does this squinty face throughout the film which seems designed to make him look somewhat tougher, but instead just made me laugh. And of course, Joe transforms by the end of the film. There’s a good heart hidden in there somewhere! Dorothy helps him find it.
Speaking of Dorothy, Laraine Day is a favorite of mine, and she’s a great fit for this role. Dorothy is never afraid to go toe-to-toe with Joe and speak her mind.
She’s also unafraid of planting a smooch or two on him, not one to wait for him to make the first move. The chemistry between Grant and Day is nice, even though his character is so deceptive throughout most of the film. They have several fun screwball scenes, and several that are swoon-worthy as well.
The film’s not all romantic fluff. Class divisions are explored, Grant delivering an interesting rant about how he grew up and how “Dorothy’s people” see him as an animal. Information about about war relief is worked in, probably to encourage the viewer to donate in the real world. The need for supplies like blankets is explained in conversation by Dorothy and her fellow relief workers, and one particularly powerful scene has a priest reading a letter from Greece, sharing a first-hand account of the wartime experience there.
Mr. Lucky is overall a cute movie, a sweet romance very much of its time and interesting to watch for its wartime context. Cary Grant’s filmography has many better-known and better-made titles, but this one’s well worth a watch.