A fast-paced, free-spirited, and largely forgotten '40s comedic flag-waver starring one of the first ladies of the Hollywood thriller, Pillow to Post marks the first and only time that actress Ida Lupino ventured into Claudette Colbert style comedic terrain.
Diving headfirst into untested waters – as a headstrong woman who dares to go out on the road to prove to her father that she’s got what it takes to save the family business as a successful oil well supply saleswoman, Ida Lupino does much more than merely stay afloat.
Under the watchful eye of her Hard Way director Vincent Sherman, Lupino guides us through the delightfully daffy film’s multiple misunderstandings and mistaken identities which are played here for tongue-twisting screwball comedy laughs as opposed to topsy-turvy Film Noir plot twists.
Handling the filmic change of pace beautifully, our refreshingly charming lead scores laughs with grace, gusto, and enviable ease.
Although Pillow begins as an ode to working women doing their part to help the war effort, it isn’t too long before our heroine’s professional life takes a backseat to budding romantic complications. And as Sherman's picture gives in to genre demands, Post becomes a less successful look at man/woman relations in the workforce than the 1935 Joan Blondell comedy Traveling Saleslady.
Mistaken for a new army bride after one too many sleepless nights on the road, Lupino soon discovers that she can secure the mattress of her dreams if she manages to track down a lieutenant who’s willing to play her fake husband for the night.
Of course, unfortunately for our leads but fortunately for us, nothing goes according to what Lupino imagined would be a fairly simple plan.
And to everyone's credit, although Pillow threatens to collapse under the weight of its overstuffed plot as it careens to a chaotic conclusion, Post is bolstered by Lupino’s great chemistry with the solider in question as played by William Prince as well as some truly inspired support by a then decidedly against-type Sydney Greenstreet.
While it does feel like two completely different scripts were glued together using an out-of-place nightclub scene (that features Louis Armstrong and Dorothy Dandridge to boost interest), it’s hard to root against such a spirited picture, even if Post’s less-than-enlightened treatment of an African American cast member does wear on the nerves.
Both decidedly timeless and distinctly of its time period, scripter Charles Hoffman’s adaptation of Rose Simon Kohn’s play is reminiscent in spirit to country-set sex farces like The Importance of Being Earnest and also bears a lot in common with Frank Capra’s definitive Claudette Colbert comedy It Happened One Night.
Lost filmic treasure in the form of a rare fast-talking Ida Lupino ‘40s comedy, this flawed yet genuinely funny, feel-good wartime romance has been not only found but newly (re)released to the star’s grateful fans courtesy of another thoroughly enjoyable Warner Archive Collection DVD.
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