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Film / Theodora Goes Wild

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Theodora Goes Wild (1936) follows Theodora Lynn (Irene Dunne), author of a popular salacious novel (The Sinner), who keeps a nom de plume, Caroline Adams, to stop anyone—especially her aunts—in her prim and proper town of Lynnfield from discovering her double life.

But it all seems to come apart when the book’s cover designer, Michael Grant (Melvyn Douglas), finds out her true identity and decides to free her from her stuffy upbringing. But Theodora won’t take this lying down; soon enough, Michael will get a taste of his own medicine.

Hilarity Ensues and ensues.


  • All Women Are Prudes: Played Straight with the Lynn literary society, but averted with Theodora...eventually.
  • Be Yourself: Theodora gives this advice to women via newspapermen:
    Theodora Lynn: I have this to say to the modern young girls, gentlemen - Be free, express yourselves! Take your life in your own hands and mold it. The world will try to rob you of your freedom, but fight for it! It's all you have to live for! That's all for the modern girl.
  • The Casanova: Uncle John is one:
    Uncle John: Now, [points his walking stick to a plethora of photos of women] meet Annabelle 1896, right down to including Margie from 1936.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Played With: To get back at Michael, Theodora acts like this for a lot of the film, but we all know she's a fairly clear-headed woman.
  • Cool Uncle: Theodora’s Uncle John is definitely cool with his accepting ways and open mind. If the Lynn aunts don’t like him, then he’s awesome.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: With the influence of Michael, Theodora begins to thaw out. And how!
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Once Theodora’s true identity is out, all the modest outfits are gone, and awesome dresses of the 30s are in. Feathers included.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Lynnfield’s own Da Editor, Jed Waterbury (played by the fantastic Thomas Mitchell), decides to print Caroline Adams real identity (Theodora), throwing himself into the herd of Lynnfield’s literary circle who have condemned everything Caroline Adams has written.
  • Gossipy Hens: Lynnfield is full of them.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Michael and Agnes. The marriage has been washed up for 5 years, but he can't divorce her while his father holds public office.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Theodora's aunts are exceedingly shocked about Theodora's behaviour, but they eventually warm up to her differences and accept her for who she is. Near the end, they defend her against the gossipy women in Lynnfield even when she comes in with a baby in tow.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Lynnfield’s literary circle, consisting of almost all the women in town, condemn The Sinner from running in serials in The Lynnfield Bugle. However, they all privately buy the newspaper to find out what happens next and even read it out loud during their meetings, much to their secret enjoyment.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Michael is a little rough around the edges, but he’s a good guy.
  • Living a Double Life: Theodora: A scion of Lynnfield society who condemns this Caroline Adams person and doesn’t disrupt anything vs. the author of a sexy novel who nervously tries to hide her true identity. Eventually, these two worlds collide.
  • Lovable Rogue: Michael also fits into this trope. He’s a rascal for causing so much trouble for Theodora, but he’s still so likable. It helps that he’s played by Melvyn Douglas.
  • Love Confession: While telling Michael that she stood up to her aunts, she slips in that she loves him. Michael is not pleased since he loves her too, but he's married.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Michael's stray dog, Jake.
  • Meet Cute: Michael ends up eating all of Theodora's homemade ginger cookies.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Although not a complete Official Couple, Michael and Theodora do love each other, and when Michael sees Theodora with Adelaide's baby, he thinks she's really gotten around during her "wild" days in NY.
  • Noblewoman's Laugh: Theodora cracks a hearty chuckle like this when she visits her publisher, and then rants until he gets a headache.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: Once Theodora realizes she loves Michael, she gains the courage to tell her aunts about her career as a kinky novel writer.
  • Pretty in Mink: In a 1930s, especially a screwball comedy, there's going to be fur. With pretty ladies.
  • Rom Com Job: Theodora's a writer while Michael is an artist.
  • Screwball Comedy: One of the early ones.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: At first, Theodora wears modest, simple suits a la 1930s style, but as her identity is revealed, her outfits get more extravagant and stylish, showing that she has “gone wild."
  • Small Town Boredom: A large reason why Theodora began writing her racy stories. Eventually, she does move to the big city, and into another man's apartment, no less.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Michael founds out Theodora’s true identity, then goes to her home and refuses to go away. He doesn’t do anything creepy beyond that, but he eventually does get a crush. And runs away when he becomes too involved and sees that Theodora is in love with him, too.
  • Tagline: “Irene Dunne in a riotous romantic comedy!”
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Seems Melvyn Douglas played these a lot. See Ninotchka for more.
  • The Teetotaler: Michael assumes that Theodora is this trope, so she tries to prove him wrong with straight whiskey...let's say she Can't Hold Her Liquor.
  • Visual Pun: A sequence of the women of Lynnfield gossiping excitedly over the telephone, alternating with shots of their cats.