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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

'Unexpected Uncle' DVD: Another Screwball Palm Beach Story

The Warner Archive May 2019 DVD release of the 1941 screwball romcom "Unexpected Uncle" shows that social commentary can be entertaining and not preachy when presented in the proper form. In this case screenwriter Delmer Daves of many classics such as "An Affair to Remember" and "A Summer Place" once again demonstrates his scribe skills.

This depth is the tasty not-so-subtly hidden pill in the peanut butter in the form of the main screwball romcom that is reminiscent of the 1942 Claudette Colbert screwball romcom "The Palm Beach Story," which share its titular setting with "Uncle." In this case Anne Shirley of "Anne of Green Gables" plays shop girl Kathleen Brown, who gets involved with part-time playboy/full-time hard-working business executive Johnny Kerrigan.  Charles Colburn plays titular Dutch uncle Seton Mansley.

Seton is walking along minding his own business when he literally runs into Kathleen fresh off of getting fired for not responding as desired to an aggressive come-on by Johnny. Seton not only quickly makes things right but gets his new friend the afternoon off. 

Johnny returning to the scene of the crime and still not taking no for an answer leads to our central trio enjoying the good life. Like all good uncles of every variety, Seton soon knows that his "niece" loves her new suitor despite the many outward contrary indications. 

The pre-honeymoon is cut short when Johnny must rush back to literal Kerrigan City to keep his shoe empire from falling apart. Seton and Kathleen come along for the ride and end up respectably living at Chez Kerrigan. 

The social commentary begins with Johnny representing the stereotype of the poor little rich boy for whom money cannot buy happiness. This extends to Johnny quickly ignoring his fiancee in favor of his business and getting upset when she does not live up to the image of the perfect corporate spouse. 

This opens the door to learning the not-so-surprising back story of Seton. Suffice it to say that this adds a "Christmas Carol" element as to Seton wanting Johnny to avoid the same fate as the older man. 

This leads to the seemingly mandatory dramatic fleeing of Kathleen; the resulting climax is highly entertaining and includes a couple of good twists. This is not to mention throwing in a little more social commentary.​

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