Mama Steps Out (1937)

Traveling aboard a ship from America to France is the Cuppy family of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The trip has been organized by matriarch Ada (Alice Brady), who is bored of America and wants the family to get some wider cultural exposure.

mso1

(Image via Movie Poster Shop)

Mr. Cuppy (Guy Kibbee) and daughter Leila (Betty Furness) aren’t quite as enthusiastic about the trip, hoping to just stay at a touristy resort and mingle with fellow Americans. Leila’s interest skyrockets, though, when she spots a handsome young man on the ship.

Leila hijacks the family’s vacation plans, leading them to Antibes, where she convinces her parents to rent a villa so she can search for her sea-faring crush. Will Leila get her man, and will Ada get the grand European adventure she so craves?

Mama Steps Out was directed by George B. Seitz. The screenplay was written by Anita Loos.

This is a film with a few moments that are too laggy, and a few that are too shouty. But generally, it’s a fun watch. I got quite a few laughs out of it.

Anita Loos injects some snark and wit into the script. Ada has a disdain for all things American (despite being from Indiana herself), and in one scene warns, “Don’t drink that soda pop where anyone can see you! Drink it in the washroom!” In another scene, she laments not having met any French people yet… while standing in front of the French maid who works at the villa she’s renting. It’s a great bit of class commentary and satire that tells a lot about her character.

Ada would be exhausting to know in the real world, but on screen she’s quite amusing. She’s a big dreamer, hoping to start a salon for artists and intellectuals once reaching France. She creates a grand European life for herself, in her mind. Alice Brady’s performance in the role is great.

Betty Furness as Leila is much different, making for a nice contrast. Where her mother shuns all things American, from singers to ships to neighbors, Leila has her heart set on a Fort Wayne-born singer who also happens to be traveling abroad.

MAMA STEPS OUT, top left: Betty Furness, Dennis Morgan; bottom right: Alice Brady, 1937

(Image via TV Guide)

The film splits its time between Ada’s grand European adventure and Leila’s pursuit of that singer, Chuck. While Brady brings more laughs, I found Furness’ storyline more engaging.

Chuck is quite rude to her in the beginning — and not in a screwball fashion. He seems to genuinely dislike her. He eventually realizes his true feelings and the error in his ways, calling himself “such a heel.” I wasn’t sure I’d be able to buy them as a couple considering how he treated her early on, but they’re kind of adorable by the end!

Dennis Morgan, in the role of Chuck, also gets to perform a few songs. The film’s music is very pleasant, composed of a short tracklist of cutesy love songs.

Mama Steps Out is a quick and fun watch. Those interested in the history of women behind-the-scenes in Hollywood will want to give it a look for its Anita Loos script, but it’s worth a look regardless for wacky Mrs. Cuppy and the eventually-sweet Chuck/Leila romance.

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