This picture Directed by Sam Wood for RKO STUDIOS is an odd film to view. Not so much because of the story which is of a Millionaire goes undercover at his own store to find the people responsible for hanging his effigy from a street light as protest but because of the main characters.
It follows the genre of the ‘Oppressed workers against big business” which would follow with other films giving rise to what some would later say were communist throughs
Actor Charles Coburn who’s distinctive speech style reminds me of Fred Mac Murray in MY THREE SONS on television in the 1960’s(William Demarest who played “Uncle Charlie” in MY THREE SONS when William Frawley left is also in this film in small role) to chirpy, crusading Jean Arthur have this low key chemistry that did not seem to make the picture go.
NIGHT FLIGHT (1933) made by Clarence Brown and starred Clark Gable, Helen Hayes, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy with a powerhouse story of flying serum over mountains also suffered from something not quite right feeling and did not do well.
The DEVIL IN MISS JONES features dialogue which very pointed and exploitative almost one could say preachy in its tone especially towards the end . The picture also opens with a contrived Devil and Hell fire prologue featuring Jean Arthur. Through the film: Arthur does her best as the oppressed worker of a large Department store who unknowingly befriends her undercover boss on his mission.
What does lift the film is the work of screen veteran Spring Byington as the older store employee Elizabeth Ellis who becomes a love interest. Her quiet mannered ways and voice add a sincerity to the story as boyish Robert Montgomery crashes about the beach scenes.
The Coney Island war time crowded beach moments really do add a different look to beach recreation. People literally upon people in the sand trying to get some recreation followed by some comedy bits with Charles Coburn in a beach shop.
THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES gave Charles Coburn a Best Supporting actor nomination for the Academy awards along with Norman Krasna for best Original Screenplay
S. Z. Sakall is a standout in limited screen time as the butler of Charles Coburns character. Its a shame he did not get chance to play the role of the millionaire owner but he was not a box office star.
THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES works on a different level due it odd interaction so settle back in your slippers you just bought: relax and see it for yourself. You will not need a receipt.
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