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On Approval (1944)


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On Approval (1944) is a light, slightly naughty British drawing room comedy that circumvents the norms of romance.  George (Clive Brook who also directed) is an impoverished Duke forced out of his mansion.  The estate is occupied by Helen (Googie Withers, ravishing in Victorian costumes) who wishes George would pay her more attention.  Richard (Roland Culver), a friend of George, has set his sights on Maria (Beatrice Lillie), a bossy and difficult woman, but she’s rich.  


Maria plots to test Richard’s love by having him stay with her at her home in Scotland.  The catch is Richard is not permitted to spend the night.  George and Helen, unable to find a hotel room, ensconce themselves at Maria’s.  What a setting: Four unmarried people with limited domestic skills in a house without any servants (they walk out rather than be part of a scandalous living arraignment).


The conceited and lazy George expects Helen to wait on him hand and foot.  And for a while, she does.  Richard tolerates Maria’s abuses thinking it’s a ploy to test his devotion. His thinking is: She can’t be this bad. Can she? The dialogue is so rich in witticism the few straight exchanges seem jarring.  Comparisons with Private Lives (1931) are unmistakable.  In the end, the subtly shrewd Helen gets what she wanted, and is the happiest.  On Approval is jolly good fun!

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