Series: All-Star feature

Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Producer: Hal Roach, Milton H. Bren
Screenplay: Eddie Moran, Jack Jevne
Photography: Norbert Brodine
Editor: William H. Terhune
Art director: Charles D. Hall

Stars: Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne, Alan Mowbray, Billie Burke, Patsy Kelly, Ann Dvorak
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 04 March 1938
Length: 10 reels
Production No.: F-19
Filming dates:
Rating: 7/10

Merrily We Live


Ambrose, a tramp that had been hired as a servant by the wealthy Kilbourne family, or rather by the soft-hearted mother, has stolen all the silverware and fled. The butler Grosvenor threatens to quit, as he has done so many times before without success, but instead serves breakfast to Geraldine (Constance Bennett), her sister Marian (the beautiful Bonita Granville), their brother Kane (Tom Brown) and their parents (Clarence Kolb and Billie Burke) using an arrangement of alternative eating utensils in absence of the stolen cutlery. When Mrs. Kilbourne (Billie Burke) discovers the truth she breaks down in tears, much to the delight of the others who are glad to hear her confess she will not take in any more tramps.
That afternoon, a shabbily-dressed man, Wade Rawlins (Brian Aherne) comes to the house after he loses his car and asks to use the telephone. Naturally, Mrs. Kilbourne invites him in and offers him food. Geraldine sees this and is less than accommodating and tries to force him out of the house (to much comical effect!) but mother instead instructs him to go and get dressed into a chauffeur's uniform. Wade engages Mrs. Kilbourne in the garden as she is pruning her roses and they get on well until Geraldine instructs him to drive her to her club. After they arrive Wade gets into an altercation with another man over a parking dispute before leaving with Geraldine. When Geraldine returns home there is a telephone call awaiting her from Herbert (the guy in the altercation earlier) but she instructs Grosvenor to tell him she is not at home, despite engaging in the conversation with him herself.
Rawlins goes to the station to pick up Mr. Kilbourne to bring him back to the house. Kilbourne has a family meeting to discuss the new chauffeur and makes it clear he wants rid of him. Nobody listens to him. The next evening, a very drunken Kilbourne is driven back to the house in a cab by a driver who tries to rip him off but Rawlins intervenes and helps Kilbourne into the house. Marian makes a pass at Rawlins before he takes the dogs out for a midnight walkies. Shortly after, Herbert brings Geraldine home in his car. She finds herself locked out and so Rawlins assists her through a downstairs window (with a major amount of flirting involved).
The next morning the family gather for breakfast where Mr. Kilbourne announces the importance of a party he is hosting at the house that evening for Senator Harlan. Mrs. Kilbourne rehearses the dinner etiquette with Rawlins which irritates Grosvenor, who threatens to quit (again). The agency butler turns up, and then the guests begin arriving. The female guests take an instant linking to Rawlins, much to the annoyance of Kilbourne who is about to complain when Senator Harlan and his wife turn up. One person who doesn't take a liking to Rawlins is Herbert who continues his bickering at him at the dinner table. The senator brings up the awkward subject of hobos being hired as house servants, oblivious that Rawlins, to whom he engages in, fits the description. The discussion gets interrupted by Kilbourne when Rawlins attempts to explain his circumstances. But it becomes apparent that the senator has taken a shine to Rawlins. As the party breaks up and everybody goes home Herbert pushes his affections onto Geraldine and is increasingly frustrated when Wade intervenes and takes her back indoors.
The next morning and there is confusion in the kitchen when a call comes in for breakfast from a guest in the house. Grosvenor delivers the tray to the mystery guest in the room upstairs only to discover that it is Wade. Kilbourne storms into the bedroom and demands that Wade leaves immediately but Wade threatens him with blackmail in that he may tell the senator, whom took a shining to him at the party, that Wade is nothing more than a tramp, which would tarnish Kilbourne's credibility. At that moment the senator's daughter Minerva telephones Wade and invites him to hook up for a game of golf. Geraldine pairs up with her brother to make a foursome but she gets jealous when she sees Wade coaching Minerva closely and storms off home.
When Wade returns to the house Gerladine hides her excitement by making sarcastic remarks about his golf tutoring of Minerva. Wade leaves her frustrated when he walks out. The police pay a visit to a local store and inform the owner they have found his car in a ditch. The owner had loaned it to Wade previously and now suspects he has been killed in a crash. That night Wade shows up at the store and freaks out the assistant! At the house, Kilbourne and Gerladine have a heart-to-heart about Wade and he gives her his blessing to pursue him. The next morning it is reported in the newspaper that Rawlins has been killed in a car crash. Geraldine faints, which is followed by everybody else following suit when they see Wade outside the house waving at them. Wade grabs Geraldine and takes her outside to get her some water. The way he adminsters it to her is something quite spectacular! She jumps into his arms finally.

Favourite bit
There is a great sequence near the end of the film when Kilbourne goes to the closet to get the smelling salts for Geraldine who has fainted. As he opens the door the metal chimes which have been shoved in there by the butler fall on him. He doesn't even react. Then, as he walks across the kitchen he gets smashed in the face by the door as his daughter tries to come through it. It's really quite funny.

Copyrighted February 28, 1938.
Re-released in January 1948.
This was the last film released in the "All-Stars" series.
The film was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song, and Best Sound Recording.
One scene that rather annoyed me was at the beginning when Marian was told to "go upstairs and put some clothes on!" Shame, because I was rather enjoying looking at that. I mean, her. Here's why!
The two dogs are called Get off the rug and You too. Strange family.
When Grosvenor goes to ring the chimes with his hammer to signal for breakfast, the tubes all fall to the floor. The way they fall couldn't have been accurately predicted and therefore it makes his reactions to them, especially the last one, genuine. Screenshot of the scene.
At around 46 minutes into the film Bonita Granville rides the stair rail backwards from the top to the bottom. Given the height of it and the drop to her right if she got that wrong I think it took some considerable courage to do that!
When the family are about to have breakfast Kane and Marian begin arguing before Geraldine makes them stop. Kane is 'forced' to kiss Marian to apologize. He could have just mimed this but he actually kisses her and you can hear the sound. Despite the scripted scene, you cannot blame him for actually kissing her (and getting away with it!) Just look at her! Screenshot of the scene.
Billie Burke had a cleavage! Who knew?!
In the film Clarence Kolb plays the father of Bonita Granville. He was born in 1874, while she was born in 1923. That means he would have been 49 years older than her in real life.
A line of dialogue late in the film when Geraldine makes a comment at Wade in the kitchen: "I think a person should have more pride than to allow a total stranger to make love to her on a golf course."
Does Brian Aherne cop a feel of Billie Burke's boob in this scene?

What the experts say
"When I went into this film review knowing it was over 90 minutes I wasn't exactly thrilled with the prospect, but having said that I found it to be quite a delightful film with some good, likeable characters. A really good film to be fair; I really liked this one. Good characters, two really shaggable leads, much likeable Brian Aherne, and of course Patsy Kelly in typical Patsy Kelly mode. I'd honestly have to say this is one of the best films I have seen from the Hal Roach Studios - and if you know me then you'd know that is not something I say often!" ~ Lord Heath.

Constance Bennett
Geraldine Kilbourne
Brian Aherne
Wade Rawlins
Alan Mowbray
Grosvenor, the butler
Billie Burke
Emily Kilbourne
Patsy Kelly
Ann Dvorak
Minerva Harlan
Tom Brown
Kane Kilbourne
Clarence Kolb
Henry Kilbourne
Bonita Granville
Marian Kilbourne
Marjorie Rambeau
Mrs. Harlan
Phillip Reed
Herbert Wheeler
Willie Best
Sidney Bracey
Reynolds, agency butler
Paul Everton
Senator Harlan
Marjorie Kane
Kenneth Harlan
Mr. Remington
Wilma Cox
Mrs. Remington
Sam Flint
Mr. Fleming
Sarah Edwards
Mrs. Fleming
Pat Flaherty
Pat, police officer
Olin Howland
Jed Smith
Ray Mayer
Taxi driver
Thomas Pogue
Eddie Hart
Police officer


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This page was last updated on: 04 March 2020