Kay Francis ... Georgiana Summers
George Brent ... Robert 'Bob' McNear
Genevieve Tobin ... Betty Summers
John Eldredge ... Lawrence Thurston
Claire Dodd ... Connie Thurston
Ralph Forbes ... Ralph Summers
Helen Lowell ... Aunt Julia Hamilton
Spencer Charters ... Detective 'Wink' Winkelsteinberger
William Austin ... Arthur Summers
Eddie Shubert ... Sweeney, Attendant Leaking Gasoline
Charles Coleman ... Jones, Georgiana's Butler
Olive Jones ... Miriam Brent
Bill Elliott ... Teddy
John Sheehan ... Murphy, Gas Station Attendant
Wade Boteler ... Sprague, Hotel Detective
Produced by Hal B. Wallis.
Directed by Alfred E. Green.
Story and Screenplay by Charles Kenyon.
Art Direction by Robert M. Haas.
Gowns by Orry-Kelly.
Music Direction by Leo F. Forbstein.
Original Music by Bernhard Kaun & Heinz Roemheld.
Cinematography by Sid Hickox.
Film Editing by Bert Lenard.
Kay Francis had begun 1935 on a winning streak with two commercially successful pairings with George Brent, Living on Velvet and Stranded. It was common sense for Warner Brothers to reunite the two again for what turned out to be what is considered by many to be the best of their pairings, The Goose and the Gander.
Her success at the studio strangely played out well within this film. Kay had eclipsed Ruth Chatterton as Warner Brothers’ Queen of the Lot with the massive successes of The House on 56th Street (1933) and Mandalay (1934), two Chatterton rejects. In The Goose and the Gander, she was paired opposite two of Chatterton’s ex-husbands, George Brent and Ralph Forbes. The actors were not on speaking terms throughout the production of this film, and worked together only once more in Adventure in Diamonds (1940), a low-budget programmer from Paramount.
None of the drama carried over into Kay’s life or performance. She’s a pleasure to watch throughout the film, and stunningly photographed, too. A glorified B movie about a woman who’s determined to show her ex-husband his new wife is a two-timing tramp, it’s one of her best roles.
Comedy is something scarcely associated with Kay’s legacy as an actress. Luckily films like The Goose and the Gander not only provided melodramatic relief, but showed her versatility, too, for Kay Francis was an excellent comedienne.
Below: Kay Francis and George Brent relax on the set of The Goose and the Gander.
This movie opens on a beach. George Brent, Genevieve Tobin, and the especially feminine William Austin head into the ocean for a swim. For some odd reason…they hold hands as they run to the ocean. Arthur, of course, has to be a total klutz in the water. Betty and Bob swim to a pier, where Georgiana hears overhears on their conversation to get married.
A beautiful shot of Georgiana holding a cocktail at a dinner party follows. Bob accidentally walks into her arm, forcing her to spill the drink on him. A shocker really follows. Arthur and Georgiana spot each other. They were once married. They go outside into the night to discuss what has gone on in their lives. (You would think that George Brent or maybe even Ian Hunter would have played the ex-husband role, right?)
Arthur introduces Georgiana to his wife, Betty, who was the same woman on the pier with Bob, discussing possible marriage plans. From here the chase to expose Betty’s intentions to Arthur are on.
Bob and Betty meet at a local station, where Betty gets into Bob’s car and they drive off. The Thurstons, jewel thieves, pull up and take Betty’s car to throw off the cops chasing them. Bob’s car then runs out on gas, and, since this is the movies we’re talking about, they arrive on the door of Georgiana’s home, where she has planned to catch them in the act.
None other than the Thurstons arrive at Georgiana’s door for the same gas reason. Georgiana says how “bizarre” it is that both of Arthur’s wives are under one roof, only she says it to Mrs. Thurston, not Betty. Georgiana then tells the Thurston’s her plan to expose Betty Summers’ infidelity because it was Betty who broke up her own marriage. The real Betty Summers gets more and more nervous because she still believes that Georgiana is clueless to the real circumstance.
One problem follows. This is a post-code movie, and Betty and Bob aren’t married. How are they supposed to stay in the same room? Especially when Georgiana locks them in there until morning? The comedic answer is to have Bob take a blanket and sleep on the roof, where the dog spots him and begins a barking fit. Because of a smallpox outbreak, all guests are quarantined in Georgiana’s home.
When she goes outside to see what’s wrong. Georgiana spots Bob on the roof and begins that charming Kay Francis laugh. Bob gets down and goes for a walk with her in the land surrounding her beautiful home. When the Thurstons hear a siren, they panic and hide their stolen jewels in Georgiana’s room. Of course her Aunt Julia secretly catches them in the act.
In the woods, Georgiana tells Bob she can’t wait to have Arthur over for lunch tomorrow so he can “catch ‘Betty.’” Bob tries to change her mind. They flirt a little. Then kiss in the moonlight so the real Betty can catch them. After Georgiana walks into the house, she dumps water on Bob. “Good night.”
When Aunt Julia tells Georgiana of the Thurstons hiding of the jewels, Georgiana looks at them to realize that they’re hers. Back at the hotel, Arthur hears that Betty had run off with another man, so he sets out to catch her in the act of infidelity. In the mean time, the Thurstons are all over Georgiana to see if they can get her to slip out where the jewels are hidden. She reveals this to Bob, whom she has come to like.
Arthur and his brother pull up and are mistaken as police by the Thurstons, who bring them up to their room at gunpoint. During this, Georgiana and Bob sit out on her porch, where Bob tells her he is in love with her. Georgiana condemns him, saying how wrong it is for a “married man” to say that to any woman.
Betty talk to the Thurstons, reveals her identity and lets them know that her husband and his brother really aren’t policemen. When the real policemen arrive only moments later, everything is revealed to everyone after a few misunderstandings with some stupid detectives. The Thurstons go off with the police. The Summers go off with each other. And Bob stays with Georgiana, whom he now plans to marry.
This is typical of the Kay Francis movies of the period. The Goose and the Gander (1935) might not be the funniest comedy, but it has a warmth to it that makes the movie admirable. As Georgiana, Kay has one of her best unimportant roles. While it may not be a Vera Kowalska of Confession (1937) or Maida Walker of In Name Only (1939), Georgiana is the type of character Kay was equally good at. Actually, the part is similar to the types of roles Myrna Loy was just beginning to play at MGM.
The sets in this movie are beautiful in that rustic, country New York cottage sort of way. It’s all so cozy and polished that, when I took look around my living room, I realized what a dump I live in.
George Brent plays the same character he always plays in Kay Francis movies. Genevieve Tobin is slightly annoying as Betty Summers. But, as a whole, this is definitely one of the better movies of Kay’s career, and a film that really shows her range as an actress (making her more than just the “epitome of 1930s glamour”). It’s a shame that Kay didn’t have more assignments like these, but, maybe because of its rarity, films such as The Goose and the Gander or Living on Velvet (1935) shine just a little brighter than they normally would.
There’s no scene stealing from anyone else, here. This is Kay Francis’ movie all the way.
Andre Sennwald, September 12, 1935.
Published in the New York Times.
The new film at the Strand Theatre has been plotted with a mechanical skill which can be compared only with the assembly of a Ford car. It is not written so much as blue-printed, with all the parts neatly joined, the characters identified as A, B and C, and the situations prepared to formula down to the last entrance and exit. You imagine the story conference began and ended when the producer said: "Rewrite A58762, boys, and spin it out to seventy minutes flat." "The Goose and the Gander" emerges as a well made minor farce, which scrambles its people the way they have been getting scrambled ever since "Seven Keys to Baldpate" and probably before.
The narrative is so deviously complex that if you stop to light a cigarette or talk to your neighbor it requires five minutes to reorient yourself in its labyrinthine ways. Miss Kay Francis, you see, is seeking revenge on a flirtatious lady, Miss Genevieve Tobin, who stole her husband away from her and married him. She plans to embarrass the lady and Mr. George Brent, with whom she is dashing about, by getting them stranded in the mountains and forcing them to spend the night at her country home as man and wife. Then she plans to trap her former husband in the same predicament and have him discover his wife in the act of cheating. But a pair of escaping jewel thieves fall into the snare arranged for the husband, and so they all spend the night together in a pother of chagrin because nobody dares to expose any of the others for fear of being exposed himself. This doesn't seem, to make much sense, but "The Goose and the Gander" works it out rather well.
Its chief impediment to an evening pleasantly unimportant in the cinema comes from its insistence on cramming the dialogue with r's, which have an embarrassing habit of becoming w's when Miss Francis goes to work on them. The film is played with the proper consternation by all the principals. It ceases to be predictably slick and becomes momentarily hilarious when Spencer Charters arrives on the scene as a rural police chief who isn't going to let anything be put over on him.