Basil Underwood (Leslie Howard) and Joyce Arden (Bette Davis) are two actors known for their chemistry together on stage. Off-stage, the two of them are in love with each other, but have quite a volatile relationship. They’ve been wanting to get married and have planned to do so plenty of times, but for various reasons, it’s never actually happened. But after finishing a performance of “Romeo and Juliet,” they decide once and for all that they’re really going to make it happen this time. However, during their performance that night, heiress Marcia West (Olivia de Havilland) was in the audience and she fell deeply in love with Basil.
After the show, Marcia went backstage to tell Basil what his performance meant to her and decides that Basil is her ideal man. However, her fiance Henry (Patric Knowles) isn’t too thrilled with this and goes to see Basil himself. Henry asks Basil to come out to her home and act like a total heel so she’ll get over her infatuation with him. Basil agrees, much to Joyce’s dismay. Once Basil arrives, he puts on his worst behavior and is shocked to find that Marcia loves him anyway. Not only that, he quickly begins to enjoy her adoration.
When you think of Leslie Howard, you generally think of movies like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Romeo and Juliet, and Gone With the Wind. He’s definitely not the first guy you think of when you hear the words “screwball comedy.” But did you know that Leslie Howard could be really funny? And by “really funny,” I mean downright hilarious. Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland also aren’t generally remembered for being in comedies, but they both prove to be quite funny here. I’d seen Olivia and Leslie together in Gone With the Wind, Bette and Olivia together in a few other movies, and Bette and Leslie together in other movies, so I really loved getting to see the three of them together and doing something so different for all of them. Why this movie isn’t better remembered for any of them is beyond me, because it’s witty, well-acted, and fast paced; an absolute delight.