Film Review

Theodora Goes Wild

todayFebruary 23, 2023 228

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By Gareth Jones

For fans of screwball comedies, post code but still spicy Hollywood, Irene Dunne, and fans of the name Mervyn

Released in 1936, a couple of years after the implementation of the Hays Code, Theodora Goes Wild is a commentary on the self-censorship of Hollywood and the hand-wringing of American society.  It tells the story of youngTheodora Lynn, member of the namesake family of conservative small town Lynnville.  She keeps the secret of being a writer of “scandalous and salacious” novels that are the scourge of her town reading group lead by her two aunts.  Of course, Theodora (played magnificently by Irene Dunne) while visiting her publisher in the big city falls for a care-free artist with his own secrets.  Hilarity and social commentary ensue.  Of special note is the direction of Richard Boleslawski who after being trained by Stanislavski at the Moscow Art Theatre fled to America, founded the American Laboratory Theatre and taught students including Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, thus being a major influence on the development of method acting.  He was excellent with actors including Macon, Georgia born Mervyn Douglas (father of Illeana Douglas), who plays the artist who challenges Theodora’s approach to life. Sadly, this film was Boleslawski’s last complete film as he died during the filming of his next at the age of 47. The film does an excellent job skewering the hypocrisy of many aspects of American society, a message still applicable to today’s world.  Finally, the film also stars Thomas Mitchell whose eyes twinkle brightly every time he gets to counter the hypocrites of the town as the newspaper editor.

Available to stream on the Criterion Channel and YouTube

Written by: Gareth Jones

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