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Film / Four's a Crowd

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Who will marry who?

Four's a Crowd is a Screwball Comedy film from 1938 directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Errol Flynn, Rosalind Russell, Olivia de Havilland, and Patric Knowles.

The wacky, convoluted plot starts off with reporter Jean Christy (Russell, playing an Intrepid Reporter two years before His Girl Friday), who comes to work one day with a scoop only to find that her newspaper is about to go out of business. Jean goes marching into the office of the owner, Pat Buckley (Knowles), and demands that Pat rehire the former editor Bob Lansford (Flynn), who can turn the newspaper around.

It turns out that Bob has left journalism and is now running a lucrative PR business. He is desperately trying to land as a client the ultra-rich John Dillingwell. As it happens, John Dillingwell's granddaughter Lorri (de Havilland) is Pat Buckley's girlfriend. Romantic complications and comic silliness ensue as Jean tries to bring Bob back to the paper, Bob tries to reel in Lorri's grandfather, and everyone falls in love.

The only screwball comedy that Errol Flynn ever did; after this film did poorly at the box office he went back to action/adventure movies. Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch, appears briefly as Lorri's governess.


  • Angry Guard Dog: Dillingwell has a pack of hounds that will attack at his command. He likes to send them after Bob.
  • AstroTurf: To help Dillingwell decide that he needs a PR firm to help rescue his reputation, Bob hires people to throw vegetables at him.
  • Chinese Launderer: A throwaway gag has Jean attempting to find out who "H. Louis Brown" is, and going to the Hong Lou Brown Chinese laundry.
  • Fixing the Game: In order to beat Dillingwell at a model train race, Bob smears butter on Dillingwell's track.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Multiple uses of "make love" to mean "court romantically."
    Lorri: If you think I'm going to stand by and see you make love to another woman you're mistaken!
  • Hidden Depths: It turns out that Bob, with his glib charm and his fast talking and his girlfriend juggling, actually does care about doing good in the world and is quite sincere about getting Dillingwell to fund a hospital for polio victims.
  • Idle Rich: If Dillingwell has a job it's not apparent what it is; he seems to sit at home all day and play with model trains.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Eventually Jean latches on to the story of who the mysterious hospital benefactor H. Louis Brown is (it's Dillingwell, planned by Bob for good publicity).
  • Love Dodecahedron: It gets confusing for a while there.
  • Meet Cute: Jean barges into Pat's office only to find out that he is without pants, as she caught him in the middle of changing into a tux.
  • Pool Scene: There's one at Dillingwell's mansion which is obviously meant to get Lorri and Jean (and Bob for that matter) into swimsuits.
  • Produce Pelting: Bob hires people to chuck heads of lettuce at Dillingwell as he exits his car.
  • Running Gag: Dillingwell constantly sending his pack of dogs after Bob.
  • Screwball Comedy: Lots of romantic silliness and comic misunderstandings. At the end the four of them go to the judge for a double wedding but have to figure out who's marrying who first.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: This happens when Bob's two girlfriends Lorri and Jean both call his office at the exact same time, and Bob tries to have two conversations at once with a phone in each hand.
  • Workout Fanservice: Lorri is introduced doing some kind of stretching exercise with a workout machine, a shot obviously meant to show off her legs.