Directed by S. Sylvan Simon. Cast: Frank Morgan, Irene Rich, Ann Rutherford, Virginia Weidler, Gloria DeHaven, John Shelton, Gene Lockhart, Virginia Grey, Dan Dailey, Sara Haden, Margaret Hamilton. Released December 27, 1940 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Sometimes the most interesting older films are the movies bigger studios would grind out as second features on a double-bill. No big stars to carry box office, but a lot of welcome, competent actors who were solid professionals, and a lot of breezy fun. “Keeping Company” is exactly that type of movie.
The film features Frank Morgan and Irene Rich as a couple who strive to make a good home for their three daughters. Ann Rutherford plays the oldest, who is engaged to be married, and whose relationship is fraught with complication. Virginia Weidler plays the enterprising middle child with a sharp wit and scheming nature. Gloria DeHaven is the youngest and most enthusiastic.
The young couple’s relationship troubles center upon the man’s old girlfriend returning to town, needing money, and his willingness to help her out financially. That is the dramatic conflict. Weidler’s comical scenes are what sustains the narrative rhythm.
The film was made while Rutherford was appearing in the very popular Andy Hardy movies with Mickey Rooney (the number one box office star at this time) as Andy’s girlfriend Polly Benedict. She had also had a strong role in “Gone With The Wind” a year earlier. Morgan and Margaret Hamilton (who has a small role as a secretary) were coming off “The Wizard of Oz.” Weidler had scored at RKO the previous year in “The Great Man Votes” with John Barrymore. She had also appeared with Rooney in a couple movies, the actor stating, “Ginny stole every scene from me.” However, shortly after her delightful appearance in this movie, awkward adolescence hit her hard, and she seemed gawky and unappealing only a year later in “Babes on Broadway.” Her career ended by 1943 after which she married, had children, and refused to ever again discuss her career (she died at only 41 in 1968).
But what is most interesting about this otherwise rather ordinary entertainment is the very fact that it is competent and unremarkable. It is a film made strictly as disposable entertainment to support the main feature at the theaters. Today it is a chance to see talented performers like Virginia Weidler just as her too-brief career was concluding. And to enjoy the formidable talents of a major studio’s stock company, and a depiction of American life that has long since passed us by.