Watching 1939: Good Girls Go to Paris (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film:
Good Girls Go to Paris (1939)

good girls

Release date:
June 30, 1939

Joan Blondell, Melvyn Douglas, Walter Connolly, Alan Curtis, Joan Perry, Isabel Jean, Stanley Brown, Alexander D’Arcy, Henry Hunter, Clarence Kolb, Howard Hickman, James Craig (uncredited), Ann Doran (uncredited), Mary Field (uncredited), Robert Sterling (uncredited)

Columbia Pictures

Alexander Hall

Jenny Swanson (Blondell) is a waitress at a diner on a college campus, but dreams of traveling to Paris. One way Jenny thinks she can do this is through blackmail a college boy and get paid off. When this plan fails, she turns to Ronald Brooke (Douglas), a professor she has befriended, who advises she goes home. Instead of heading to Minnesota, Jenny goes to New York City and gets mixed up with the Brand family, who Ronald will marry into soon.

1939 Notes:
• In 1939, Joan Blondell left her original home studio of Warner Bros. to freelance at other studios.
• Joan Blondell and Melvyn Douglas co-starred in two films together in 1939: Good Girls Go to Paris and The Amazing Mr. Williams.
• By the numbers:
– Melvyn Douglas was in four films released in 1939.
– Joan Blondell was in five films released in 1939.
– Alan Curtis was in four films released in 1939.
– Walter Connolly was in seven films released in 1939.
– Joan Perry was in two films released in 1939.
– Isabel Jeans was in two films released in 1939.
– Stanley Brown was in 23 feature films released in 1939.
– Alexander D’Arcy was in three films released in 1939.
– James Craig was in 16 films released in 1939.
– Henry Hunter was in three films released in 1939.
– Clarence Kolb was in nine films released in 1939.
– Ann Doran was in 11 films released in 1939.
– Mary Field was in 14 films released in 1939.
– Sam McDaniel was in 11 films released in 1939.
– Harold Miller was in 23 films released in 1939.
– Robert Sterling was in 20 films released in 1939.

good girls2

Other trivia:
• Joan Blondell’s first film for Columbia.
• Jean Arthur was originally considered for the film lead.
• Charles Boyer was originally considered for the film, but he opted to star in “Love Affair” instead, according to Boyer’s biographer Larry Swindell.
• Originally to be titled “Good Girls Go to Paris, Too,” but censors objected.

good girls 6

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
Joan Blondell started her career film career in 1930 and for much of it, was under contract to Warner Bros. But in 1939, things changed. Blondell left the studio and decided to go freelance.

Turning down the plum role of Belle Watling in “Gone with the Wind” because it was too small of a part, Blondell instead picked a comedy at Columbia Pictures as her first freelance vehicle.

In “Good Girls Go to Paris,” Blondell plays Jenny, a waitress at a college diner. She’s hoping to nab a college boy who she will either marry or get paid off with money she will use for a trip to Paris. But Jenny also befriends a Greek professor from England, Ronald (Douglas), who tells her that’s a bad plan and Jenny starts to have a conscious. Ronald encourages Jenny to go home, but at the train station, Jenny buys a ticket to New York City, meeting Ronald’s future brother-in-law Tom (Curtis) in the process. Jenny and Tom kick up their heels, and when Tom drinks too much, Jenny make sure he gets home safely. In the process, Jenny meets Tom’s sister Sylvia (Perry) — who is supposed to marry Ronald but instead is in love with the butler’s son. Complications ensue when Grandfather (Connolly) questions the ruckus in his household, and Jenny is described as a family friend who will be a bridesmaid in the wedding. As Jenny and Grandfather become friends and Ronald arrives for the wedding, Jenny tries to cover for family members and fix problems throughout the household.

After Melvyn Douglas and Joan Blondell successfully co-starred in “There’s Always a Woman,” “Good Girls Go to Paris” was made in an effort to recapture that success.

This film is funny, but gets convoluted (as you can tell by my longwinded plot summary attempt above). Towards the end, I wished the whole plot had continued on the college campus instead. However, I still had a good time.

The plot and friendship with a grumpy head of household and young woman reminded me of another 1939 film, FIFTH AVENUE GIRL, another Walter Connolly film. This year was also Connolly’s last year in film, as he died in 1940.

As the plot gets convoluted once Jenny gets to New York City, it also gets a bit frustrating. Jenny sticks her neck out too far for the family, including when Jenny is asked to take Sylvia’s place in a traffic accident. It gets a little exhausting.

But despite this, I did think it was a funny film and Joan Blondell and Melvyn Douglas are always great. (Though Douglas being English was a bit odd. He also occasionally seems to forget he’s supposed to have an accent).

There are several very funny scenes, like Blondell’s skirt being too short because she starched it. Or when everyone on the train is eavesdropping. Sylvia and Jenny awkwardly hugging, as they pretend to be reunited friends made me laugh.

While it’s a bit frantic, all in all this film is good fun. Though if “Good Girls Go to Paris” had a cast led by anyone other than Blondell and Douglas, I question if it would have been as enjoyable.

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