In the film, Dunne plays Theodora Lynn, a wholesome, small-town girl who lives with her two maiden aunts, Aunt Mary and Aunt Elsie, in Connecticut. Unbeknownst to them, Theodora writes risqué novels under the name of Caroline Adams. When one of her stories is printed in the town's local paper, the Lynnfield Bugle, it's citizens, including her aunts, protest and force the paper to stop running it. Theodora finds it amusing that her work has the town all in a frenzy.
Theodora goes to New York to visit her publisher (she tells her aunts she's visiting her uncle). He wants her to do some publicity for her book, which of course she can't do without revealing who she really is. During her meeting she meets the illustrator of her book cover, Michael Grant (played with zest by Melvyn Douglas). He finds it funny that the author of such a racy book is so unworldly. This of course makes Theodora mad and she sets off to prove him wrong. First she gets drunk and then she goes up to his apartment, where he scares her off - and proves his point - by his advances.
Next we find Theodora back in her hometown when who should show up by Grant. He gets himself hired as her aunt's gardener, under the name of Dubarry. Naturally the two end up falling in love, shocking Theodora's aunts in the process.
My favorite scene, and the scene that made me a Melvyn Douglas fan, is when Theodora visits him in his room in the back yard.
My favorite scene
When Grant realizes he is in love with Theodora, he goes back to New York. Theodora follows, only to run into his father and find out that Grant is already married! She also finds out that he can't divorce his wife as it would ruin his father's career. Theodora decides to do something about it. First, she moves into Grant's apartment, causing him to move out. Then she has her publisher reveal her identity as an authoress. This shocks her aunts and her entire hometown. What has become of their church-going, Sunday school teaching, organ playing Theodora?
Theodora's actions lead Grant's wife to file for divorce. Then she returns to Lynnfield - with a baby! Her aunts are shocked but ready to take her back in. In all the confusion, Grant shows up. He also thinks the baby is Theodora's!! She straightens them all out by telling them that the baby belongs to her friend, who had secretly married her sweetheart at Theodora's urging.
This film is a must to watch, especially if you are an Irene Dunne fan! Dunne almost turned down the role because she was afraid it might damage her good-girl image. I'm glad she didn't! She is perfect in this role (which incidentally was her first comedy) and received an Oscar nomination for it (she lost to Luise Rainer for The Great Ziegfeld). Douglas is the perfect leading man (he has been compared to William Powell but never achieved the star status that Powell did). Some people find his silliness in the film annoying but it was that aspect that made me love him in this part.
Dunne's Wardrobe by Bernard Newman
Douglas and director Richard Boleslawski touching up Dunne's make-up
In Douglas's autobiography, he recounts a story about Dunne - she wasn't excited enough on one of her entrances. Boleslawski crept up behind her just as she was about to enter and fired a blank cartridge from a hand gun. If you watch the movie, you will "be rewarded with one of the most breathless, bewildered on-camera entrances ever recorded" (See You at the Movies: The Autobiography of Melvyn Douglas. Melvyn Douglas & Tom Arthur. 1986. 110).
Douglas and Dunne at the premiere
A car ad featuring Dunne as Theodora
TCM - Theodora Goes Wild
All images found via Pinterest