Welcome to "The Great Recasting" blogathon, where the object is to take a movie from after 1965, the de facto close of the studio system, and re-imagine it as a classic era movie. Specifically, the ground rules are this:
1. Pick a movie that was made in between 1966 and today.
2. Change the year of production.
3. Choose new leads from classic Hollywood.
4. Choose a new director from classic Hollywood.
Naturally, my recast film would star Carole Lombard, and since I've long deemed Goldie Hawn one of the heirs to the Lombard comedic tradition, I've chosen to put Carole in a Goldie role. I've already announced my selection..."Housesitter," from 1992 (the Hawn photo above is from that movie):
You may have remembered that if you're a regular to this site -- but you don't know the rest of the Lombard version, so I'm going to tell you. But first, let's recap the film in case you've never seen it. Here's the storyline from the Internet Movie Database:
Newton Davis (Steve Martin) builds his dream house and presents it to Becky Metcalf (Dana Delany) with a proposal of marriage. She turns him down. He leaves the house, still with a ribbon running around it and returns to the city, terribly smitten with Becky. He meets Gwen Phillips (Goldie Hawn), who has an interesting relationship with the truth. He spends the night with her, but leaves while she is sleeping. She takes his description of the house, searches it out, and moves in. The residents of Davis' hometown become curious and she invents a marriage, a courtship, and and an entire history. Davis' parents (Julie Harris, Donald Moffat) meet Gwen and are immediately taken with her. By the time Davis finds out what has happened, two things have happened: The whole town thinks he's married, and Becky tells him that Gwen has made her see him in a whole new light. Gwen and Davis agree that she can pretend to be his wife and get free rent while Davis works on Becky until they can announce a divorce...
See why this would work as a Lombard vehicle? Gwen Phillips is essentially a '90s version of Helen Bartlett of "True Confession" (if Helen wasn't already married); both like to stretch the truth just a bit. And to capitalize on the success of "True Confession," this film will be made in 1938 (in our alternate universe, Carole doesn't go to Warners -- at least not for "Fools For Scandal" -- and makes this picture her Paramount swan song).
Newton Davis, played in 1992 by Steve Martin, this time is portrayed by...Cary Grant (who else, and shouldn't the actor and actress most closely identified with the screwball genre co-star in one?):
In the '92 "Housesitter," Becky Metcalf, who turns down Newton's marriage proposal, is played by Dana Delany; our version will feature that era's archetypal "other woman"...none other than Gail Patrick:
Donald Moffat and Julie Harris play Newton's upper-crust parents in the real-life "Housesitter"; its 1938 counterpart will feature two superb character actors who, like Patrick, both previously worked with Lombard -- Walter Connolly and Alice Brady:
Brady and Connolly would leave us in 1939 and 1940, respectively.
Finally, a director. Frank Oz (born Richard Frank Oznowicz), whose forte is comedy, did a fine job on the 1992 "Housesitter"; the '38 version will be helmed by Paramount's stylish director of romantic comedy, among other genres, Mitchell Leisen (someone also no stranger to working with Carole):
I think this film (modified a bit for Hays code standards -- you couldn't show Newton and Gwen having a one-night stand, for instance) would work for a few reasons:
* As noted earlier, this is right up Lombard's alley. No one else in her era could play a deceiver and both do it beautifully and have the audience on her side.
* Carole and Cary proved to have solid dramatic chemistry in the '39 drama "In Name Only." Team them in a romantic comedy, and sparks would fly.
* The storyline would work as well in 1938 as in 1992.
* With Leisen's eye for design, the house Lombard "sits" in would be suitably attuned to the public mood in 1938. And in Carole's "Hands Across The Table," as in 1939's "Midnight" and 1940's "Remember The Night," Leisen showed his deftness in romantic comedy.
I hope this entry persuades some of you to rent the Hawn "Housesitter"; like Goldie herself, it's a charmer. And the very idea of a Lombard version of the tale makes one wish you could wrap it up with a ribbon, go back to 1938 and present it to Paramount officials as their parting gift to Carole: