Snowed UnderStarring: George Brent, Genevieve Tobin, Glenda Farrell, and Frank McHugh.
Director: Ray Enright.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release Date: April 4, 1936.
"With me by his side, he wouldn't get into jams!"A lark with an array of Warners B-listers, Snowed In is a rough draft of a film that feels like a movie designed simply to occupy time rather than any lofty goal. The plot, as it is, is surprisingly risque for a 1936 film: a beleaguered writer (Brent) is trapped in a snowbound Connecticut home with his first wife (Tobin), his second wife (Farrell), a love-struck neighbor (Patricia Ellis), a dopey lawyer (John Eldredge), and a drunk deputy (McHugh). Meanwhile, the writer is being pestered for his play's third act by a very shouty Porter Hall, with all the conflict and slapstick that entails.
"When I was married to him, it was jam for breakfast, jam for lunch, and jam for dinner."
Tobin has certainly been in movies like this before (and there's no doubt that the repairing of her and Brent after The Goose and The Gander is intentional), it's strange to see her as the 'good' wife who left Brent when his womanizing and ego became too much. Her character, while exhibiting much of Tobin's usual nose twitches and droll repartee, is still painfully devoted to Brent's. She's more of the straight woman than usual, especially when it comes to Glenda Farrell, who spends much of the film roaring drunk and undoubtedly drawing the eye.
The fulcrum of the film is Brent's central performance as a sex-starved writer and it's a blowout-- with the Code in force, he's lucky to have ex-wives, let alone any other feeling below the belt. This leaves him, despite being the central character, characterless. All the audience has is that he's a writer in a rough patch. In fact, when it's revealed at film's end that both Brent and Tobin separately composed third acts, it's a wonder (and a missing comedic beat) that Tobin's isn't found to be the better of the two.
The rest of the characters do a bit better, though Frank McHugh's drink-obsessed deputy gets most of the running gags. Eldredge and Ellis feel more functionary than not, and Porter hall just comes across as loopy.
The movie runs less than an hour, giving it a frantic pace. The movie itself feels like a breakneck third act (and there's the implication that the film may reflect what Brent's character finally composes for the in-film third act). This brevity removes weight and further renders the whole thing paper thin.
Snowed Under isn't much more than a showcase for a couple of comedic talents and the way to keep a handful of B-listers busy for a week. There are certainly lesser movies made from lesser material out there, but all Snowed Under does is politely exist.
Cliff at Immortal Ephemera really enjoys this film and has a full rundown.
While it's a Warner title, it's not yet on DVD. However, it does pop up on TCM fairly frequently.