‘Love on a Bet’ (1936)

RKO released this brash, fast-talking road-trip-cum-romantic-comedy the year after It Happened One Night, and while this forgotten picture certainly doesn’t match its famous model, it’s not shabby. Warner Archive has just released it through their on-demand service.

Gene Raymond plays Michael, an attractive, typically American mix of chutzpah and charm. He wants his wealthy uncle to finance his friend’s play, a romantic comedy about a penniless man who leaves New York in his underwear and arrives ten days later in Los Angeles in a new suit with a hundred dollars and a girlfriend. When his uncle tells him the story is unbelievable, Michael bets he turn fiction into truth. Soon he runs into a poor but beautiful heroine (Wendy Barrie) who’s on her way to marry a rich guy in Los Angeles. Along for the ride is her aunt (Helen Broderick), who can match our hero wisecrack for wisecrack.

Over 75 years later, it remains a fresh, breezy story full of incident and verbal wit, thanks to overqualified writers P.J. Wolfson (a crime novelist and later producer) and the illustrious Philip G. Epstein (who often collaborated with his brother Julius J. Epstein) and director Leigh Jason. The credit belongs to the script more than to Jason; the same year, he directed Raymond, Broderick, and Barbara Stanwyck in the much less clever The Bride Walks Out.

RATING 6 / 10
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features for publication consideration with PopMatters.
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features.