Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1936. Universal Pictures. Story and Screenplay by Adele Comandini. Cinematography by Joseph A. Valentine. Produced by Charles R. Rogers. Music by Heinz Roemheld. Production Design by John W. Harkrider. Costume Design by Albert Nickels. Film Editing by Ted J. Kent. Academy Awards 1936.
Its morality is hopelessly dated, but the fun is still infectious after all these years. A decade after their parents divorced and they moved to Switzerland with their heartbroken mother, three sisters (including a debuting Deanna Durbin) find out that their mid-life crisis-ridden father (Charles Winninger) is set to marry again. His intended is a gold-digging floozy (Binnie Barnes) with a social-climbing mother (the always featherbrained Alice Brady) who will stop at nothing to make it happen. The girls take it upon themselves to ship off to New York and stop the wedding, hopefully also getting their parents back together again. Of course the outcome is obvious: divorce was only ever permitted as a temporary measure in Hollywood movies of the time, and the only way that the censors could have allowed it to last so long in this particular case is because the careworn mother lives in a remote rural outpost with no men near her and cries all day for ten whole years. The girls are so hilarious in their efforts, however, that you’ll enjoy it anyway. Durbin is adorable, plucky and natural in her first major film role, though the operatic singing is sometimes annoying and you might want to lob a brick her way every times she busts out the high notes.