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Film / Having Wonderful Time

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Having Wonderful Time is a 1938 Romantic Comedy film directed by Alfred Santell, based on the stage play of the same name by Arthur Kober.

Thelma "Teddy" Shaw (Ginger Rogers), a young secretary in New York, goes off to "Camp Kare-Free", a rural vacation resort somewhere in the mountains. She is vaguely disenchanted with the resort (a "semi-private cabin" means she has three roommates), and her two weeks off starts with her getting into a nasty little argument with Chick (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), a porter/waiter at the resort.

Chick, as it turns out, has a law degree but for some reason has had to settle for a job as a waiter at a tourist resort. His dissatisfaction with his lot in life results in sniping with Teddy – but naturally enough, romantic sparks soon fly.

Lucille Ball and Eve Arden both appear in the kind of comic supporting roles that were their specialty at this stage of their careers, respectively playing Miriam and Henrietta, Teddy's roommates at the resort who are also unapologetically hunting for a man. Red Skelton, in his screen debut, appears as "Itchy", the camp's social director. And a pre-stardom, 15-year-old Ann Miller has a bit part as a camp guest.


  • Abhorrent Admirer: Jack Carson plays Emil Beatty, a persistent admirer of Teddy's, whom she clearly dislikes because he's obviously a smarmy prick. This does not stop Teddy's mother from trying to fix her and Emil up together.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: It's not very hard to guess what will happen when Teddy's peremptory demand for a harried Chick to carry her luggage leads to them sniping nastily at each other all the way to the resort.
  • The Casanova: Buzzy Armbruster, a businessman who has a habit of luring women to his cabin. Chick goes storming into Buzzy's cabin in a jealous rage, only to find out that Teddy and Buzzy are playing backgammon.
  • Comically Cross-Eyed: One of Itchy's desperately unfunny comedy routines has him joking about how cross-eyed people who dunk their doughnuts dunk them in another person's coffee.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: Comes from the cliché postcard message "Having wonderful time, wish you were here".
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Chick's fondness for a pipe marks him out as a man of refinement. He says it helps him think.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: There's no explanation how it happened (other than maybe just The Great Depression) but Chick, who has a degree in law, works at a tourist camp. His duties don't just include waiting on tables and toting luggage; the young men who work at the camp are expected to dance with the unattached ladies at evening dances. One of Chick's friends actually uses the word "gigolo".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Buzzy in makes a proposal of sex with Teddy that is surprisingly frank; The Hays Code typically permitted "scenes of passion" only when essential to the plot.
    Buzzy: When I like a girl, and a girl likes me, I think it's only fair to suggest we get together, if you know what I mean.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Seemingly a lot of the people who come to the camp are young singles looking for matches, and one of the popular activities is taking a boat on the lake. Teddy and Chick eventually do so.
  • Race Lift: The original play was about Jewish people from the Bronx vacationing in the Catskills, and was consequently suffused with ethnic humor. At the behest of the Hays Office, RKO had Arthur Kober (who'd authored the play, and wrote the screenplay adaptation) turn the characters into gentiles.
  • Sarcasm Failure: Buzzy, irritated after Teddy turns down his request for sex, says "Maybe you play backgammon." Teddy responds with an excited "Do I?!?", and the two of them wind up playing backgammon, much to Buzzy's frustration.
  • Thunder Equals Downpour: Played straight, as a clap of thunder is followed immediately by torrential rain. This is what causes Teddy and Buzzy to scurry for cover to Buzzy's cabin, which leads to more romantic complications.
  • Time-Passes Montage: A picture of the daily activities at the camp is superimposed over a montage of Teddy and Chick doing those activities, as they're falling in love.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Chick makes a tentative proposal to Teddy, then immediately withdraws it because he has no job prospects and can't support her. Teddy is hurt, which produces the third-act complication in the relationship.