Series: Charley Chase

Director: Charles Parrott, Harold Law
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Francis Corby
Editor: William H. Ziegler
Sound: Warren B. Delaplain

Stars: Charley Chase, Joyce Compton, James Finlayson, Brooks Benedict, Carl Switzer
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 18 January 1936
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: C-36
Filming dates: October 26 - November 4, 1935
Rating: 4/10

Life Hesitates At 40

Available on DVD:

Charley is impatiently awaiting to see Dr. Finlayson for an appointment when he starts ranting at the nurse on reception. She alerts the doctor that Charley is agitated and suffering from what appears to be hallucinations. Charley can wait no longer and barges into the doctor's office, where Dr. Finlayson is celebrating a recent "Liar" award with some fellow doctors, who leave. Charley starts to tell the bemused doctor about an experience he had six months prior when he was walking along the street and suddenly everything just froze momentarily. The doctor tells Charley to take his mind off of such things and throws him a cigar, which temporarily freezes in mid-air (as well as the film). Charley points this out to the doctor, who cannot see it and insists that the doctor instructed him to him to catch it.
Charley starts telling the story of how he bumped into a beautiful woman (well, it was Joyce Compton, which was scraping the bottom of what was left in Hal Roach's barrel of attractive actresses still working for him in late 1935) on the corner of the street. He tells her that she is beautiful (honestly!) and asks her name, but in a suspended state of freeze-frame she tells him to come around to her house the next day to find out the answer. So as instructed, Charley turns up at her home with flowers and candy for her, but of course she has no recollection of them ever having met and despite his best intentions, she tells him to leave but he doesn't take the hint. Harold, her fiance, takes over and gets physical with Charley (what a tough guy). As Charley is being hurled through the air we have another time-suspension moment where Joyce tells him she will try and get rid of Harold so that she can be alone with Charley. Of course when the film resumes she doesn't recall saying anything. Harold becomes suspicious of Joyce and breaks off their engagement right then and there and leaves, whilst Charley waits and hides outside her house.
When the coast is clear Charley knocks again on Joyce's door but she punches him straight in the face, thinking it is Harold. They agree to go on a date to Oceanside Park, as Charley continues telling the doctor. In the flashback Joyce and Charley meet Harold and the three of them reluctantly go into the Fun House as a threesome. They come down the helter-skelter together before Charley orders ice cream for them all whilst Joyce and Harold get cosy on a spinning wheel on the floor. Charley becomes more and more agitated seeing Joyce and Harold holding hands and having fun and through more freeze-frame shots she tells Charley that she will never marry him. Tempers begin to boil with Charley and Harold who almost get into a fight before Joyce calms the situation down.
When Charley was ordering the ice creams he wins a pistol, which he produces to show Joyce, but Harold thinks he is intent on shooting him. Joyce throws her ice cream at Charley when she thinks he is going to shoot Harold, causing Charley to drop the gun and Harold picks it up. Charley runs away, into a large tumbler and then across a moving floor (we've seen all this before in previous films). Joyce gives Charley back his gun and dumps him on the spot before asking Harold to take her home. Charley doesn't take long to decide he wants to kill himself and after pointing the gun at his head he fires the trigger, only to have water shoot out into his face. Back in the present, Charley continues his discussion with Dr. Finlayson and tells him he had sought the advice of a previous doctor but it was no use and he ended up throwing himself out of the window. He quickly changes his mind and somehow ends up back in the doctor's office! (see favourite bit) There is only one thing for it: Dr. Finlayson gives up his medal for the Ananias Club's World Champion Liar and pins it on Charley. As Charley is leaving the office an elderly man comes in boasting he is now the father of twins. Charley passes his new award on to him....

Favourite bit
Charley commits suicide by throwing himself out of the window from a tall building, but as he is on his way to the ground he suddenly sees Harold and changes his mind by reversing the jump back up and into the doctor's office again. "I've changed my mind" he says.

Copyrighted December 11, 1935.
One source gives a release date of November 18, 1935.
James Finlayson's character is Dr. James Finlayson, neuropathologist, psychiatrist and nerve specialist. He has won his "World Champion Liar" medal five consecutive times.
Joyce lives at 1765 North Sycamore.
The print of the film I worked with for this review was 15 minutes in length. As the film should be around 20 minutes, I am wondering if my print was incomplete; this was the full version of the film; or a quarter of the film is lost?
Personally I think Joyce is completely unreasonable and behaves disgracefully with the way she treats Charley at the Fun House. She obviously sees nothing wrong with having fun with her former boyfriend right underneath Charley's nose.
This was the 25th film in which Harry Bernard had appeared in a Hal Roach-produced film starring his real-life pal Charley Chase.
My opinion
The time-freezing notion is a concept that just doesn't work. It gets complicated and at times confusing. The pace is slow, Charley is looking his age and the supporting cast members do nothing to inject any type of enthusiasm into the film, though Finlayson manages to amuse with his usual facial expressions. It's a weak film, well below par for Chase.

Charley Chase
Charley Chase
Joyce Compton
James Finlayson
Dr. James Finlayson
Brooks Benedict
Carl Switzer
Boy at soda fountain
Harry Bernard
Soda fountain clerk
Edward Earle
Ananais club member
Andrea Leeds
Dr. Finlayson's nurse
Gus Leonard
Father of twins
Lee Phelps
Second doctor
Jack Raymond
Taxi driver


CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Smile When The Raindrops Fall by Brian Anthony & Andy Edmonds (book)
The Charley Chase Talkies 1929-1940 by James L. Neibaur (book)

This page was last updated on: 18 January 2023