Cast & Crew
Major W. S. Van Dyke Ii
Digby College psychology professor John Hathaway is disgusted that his male students refuse to shave until they win their big football game and bristles when Dean Hutchinson suggests that the team's star, Rubber-legs Ryan, must pass an exam to be back on the team. Although Rubber-legs has a crush on John's beautiful wife Julie, John, who is writing a book that decries jealousy, is not upset, much to Julie's consternation. When John and Hutchinson argue over Rubber-leg's exam, John quits and moves with Julie to New York. At the offices of publisher Elliott Morgan, they meet his associate, Nellie Woods, a sophisticated woman who is secretly in love with Elliott. While John consults with Nellie on changes in his book, the jealous Julie meets the womanizing, goatee-sporting Elliott. Although handsome, Elliott does not appeal to Julie, whom John knows detests men with beards. At a party at his apartment, Elliott admits that he is attracted to Julie, and John suggests that he see a lot of Julie because she would be good for him. Soon, while Nellie and John spend time together working, Julie goes sightseeing with Elliott and is increasingly frustrated that John is not jealous. One day, when Julie comes home and sees John and Nellie hugging and drinking champagne, celebrating the sale of the serial rights for his book to a popular magazine, Julie's jealousy surprises John. Later, while they are riding a subway, Julie and John jokingly pretend that he is a masher and bystanders call a policeman. She tries to stop John's arrest but is pushed back onto the subway by the crowd. That evening, Nellie goes to Elliott's apartment and tells him that she is sick of how he has changed since he grew his beard. Just then, Julie arrives and, while Nellie sneaks out, Julie tells Elliott what has happened to John. Trying to take advantage of the situation, Elliott pretends to call his lawyer, Freddie Bond, and says that Freddie wants her to wait there. Elliott soon realizes, however, that Julie is a "good girl" and admits that he is defeated. Meanwhile, Nellie has called all of Elliott's friends and invited them to a come-as-you-are party. When they arrive and Freddie is among them, Julie is furious with Elliott and insists that Freddie go with her to get John. When Nellie returns to the apartment and tells Elliott that she is leaving both him and his company, he realizes his true feelings and proposes, promising that they will honeymoon in his cottage on an island in the Adirondacks as soon as he clears it of all vestiges of his past life. After John is released, Julie is infuriated when she tells him everything about Elliott, and he laughs instead of threatening to "knock Elliott's block off." The next morning, when flowers and a note of apology arrive from Elliott, Julie decides to meet him at his cabin after telling John that she is going apartment hunting. Soon Nellie arrives at the apartment to work, and when a telegram comes, John asks her to open it. Finding that it is from Julie, who has gone to the Adirondacks, Nellie thinks that Elliott has betrayed her and cannot believe that John is unperturbed. That evening, when Elliott finds Julie at the cabin, he is angry and worried that Nellie will find out and break their engagement, but Jule cannot leave because of a storm. The next morning, Julie is miserable because John has not come after her, and is elated when he finally arrives with Nellie. Nellie is furious at Elliott, and when John reveals that he is not jealous, Julie also becomes furious. John then tries to drag Julie down to the boat to take them to the mainland, but the boat gets away when he falls into the water. While John goes to bed with a cold, Julie states that she is leaving him because they are too different. When Nellie then tells John that he was right and that Julie and Elliott are completely innocent, a now cleanshaven Elliott appears, provoking John to threaten to beat his face to a pulp. Although both are out of shape, Elliott and John soon knock each other out. As Nellie and Julie, who is ecstatic over John's jealousy, comfort their men, they, too, start an argument that turns into a fight. A short time later, Julie and John are walking with the just married Elliott and Nellie, and Julie beams as John socks a man who says "Hello sugar" to her.
Major W. S. Van Dyke Ii
Edmund L. Hartmann
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Edwin B. Willis
The Feminine Touch
If Hathaway had his hands full with dimwitted football players at Digby, he is even more flummoxed by the oddballs, neurotics and sexual predators of the literary world. Nevertheless, the beautiful executive Nellie Woods (Kay Francis) takes a shine to Hathaway and wants to publish his book while publisher Elliott Morgan (Van Heflin) tries to make time with Julie.
The crux of this romantic comedy is Julie's efforts to force her scholarly and aloof husband to show even a trace of jealousy at her pursuit by a love-drunk Morgan. Especially amusing is a surreal Salvador Dali-style dream sequence in which Julie imagines her otherwise disinterested husband punching out his romantic rivals including Morgan in a jealous rage.
Van Heflin came to M-G-M after impressing executives with his stage performance alongside Katharine Hepburn in Philip Barry's 1939 play The Philadelphia Story in a role Barry reputedly wrote for Heflin. After a year at the Yale School of Drama, Heflin would go on to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar® the same year of The Feminine Touch's release, playing an alcoholic intellectual in Johnny Eager (1942). Van Heflin was pragmatic about his abilities as a Hollywood leading man during his MGM run from 1941-1949. "I just don't have the looks and if I don't do a good acting job I look terrible," he is quoted as saying in The MGM Stock Company: The Golden Era by James Robert Parish and Ronald L. Bowers. Always drawn back to the stage, Heflin appeared in Arthur Miller's controversial A View from the Bridge, a role which required him to kiss another man on the lips.
Rounding out the well-selected The Feminine Touch cast was Don Ameche, a solid 20th-Century-Fox player who never achieved real movie stardom though he experienced a surprising career rejuvenation in the 1985 Ron Howard extraterrestrial fantasy Cocoon which highlighted a sexual charisma absent from the actor's earlier roles.
An elegant beauty, Rosalind Russell was the real star of The Feminine Touch displaying her uncanny knack for physical comedy. "Rosalind Russell makes it," The New York Times opined of Russell in what MGM advertised as its "Ticklish!" comedy.
As Jeanine Basinger noted in A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960 of Russell's unique comic abilities, "Once she begins to move...something happens. A slightly storkish quality emerges. She's a big, loosey-goosey kind of woman, exaggerated and inherently comic...She can be both elegant and ridiculous, holding the two qualities together in a single performance."
In anticipation of contemporary chick flicks, Russell was known for often playing bossy, snappish career women who find their true life's mission in the film's final reel. "What I really wanted was to become a dear little housewife," joked Russell, well aware of the politics of her typecasting as an independent woman operating in a male world, most archetypally as a newspaper reporter in the Howard Hawks screwball classic His Girl Friday (1940). It was during that production that her co-star Cary Grant introduced Russell to her future husband, Frederick Brisson. An actress who extended her career into her forties, Russell may be most remembered for her humorous turn first in the Broadway production and later the 1958 screen version of Auntie Mame which garnered Russell her fourth Oscar® nomination.
Russell was a second-tier star groomed by Irving Thalberg in the Myrna Loy mold to keep that first-tier star in check with a possible replacement waiting in the wings. But Russell created a comic persona all her own and managed to branch out with loanouts to studios besides M-G-M. The middle of seven children, Russell attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York which eventually led to a profitable contract with M-G-M which offered her more money than the $400-a-week contract first offered by Universal. Her big break arrived in the George Cukor ensemble piece The Women (1939) which had a memorable comic role for Russell as the flamboyant chatterbox Sylvia Fowler, a part she wanted so desperately she made five screen tests to get it.
Writing about The Feminine Touch, The New York Times praised Russell "as flip and adept a comedienne as is currently reading lines in Hollywood...and Miss Russell knows how to deliver them mischievously." Variety was equally filled with praise for Russell, "she handles the sophisticated material equally as well as the frequent excursions into slapstick." The trade paper applauded the entire production as "another comedy winner. It's a major laughgetter, at times smart and at times screwball, and box office from the initial marquee draught to the screen fadeout."
Russell turned out to be well matched to her onscreen rival, Kay Francis, an actress also known for her ability to dish out attitude and bon mots with the best of them. In 1933, notes Basinger, Francis was making $4,000 a week and starred in five movies. Despite a slight lisp that often had her pronouncing "R"s as "W"s, Francis was considered a consummately elegant and stylish film actress who often appeared on many "Best Dressed" lists. She is perhaps best known as the victim of jewel thieves in the effervescent Ernst Lubitsch film Trouble in Paradise (1932).
W.S. Van Dyke, the director of The Feminine Touch, hailed from a distinguished American family. His actress mother, however, was forced to return to the stage after the premature death of her husband and the young Van Dyke often joined his mother as a child actor on the stage. After stints as a grocery store clerk, waiter, gold prospector, electrician and sailor, among many professions, Van Dyke apprenticed under D.W. Griffith of whom he said "I'm still trying to do the things I learned from him," before beginning a prolific career as a screenwriter and director of films in a variety of genres.
Known for shooting with economy and speed he became known by the nickname "One-Take Woody." Van Dyke was also known for salvaging the Robert Flaherty film White Shadows in the South Seas (1928) after the director suffered a creative block. Ultimately Van Dyke turned in a highly praised first sound film for M-G-M praised by directors from Luis Bunuel to D.W. Griffith. Often drawn to adventure plots set in authentic locations, Van Dyke later made the highly successful Johnny Weissmuller/Maureen O'Sullivan jungle adventure Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) but demonstrated his flexibility by also helming a sparkling and sophisticated screen adaptation of the Dashiell Hammett novel The Thin Man (1934). Reputedly, Van Dyke, a former Marine Corps. Reserve Major, was the inspiration for King Kong's (1933) adventurous director Carl Denham.
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewiez
Screenplay: George Oppenheimer, Edmund L. Hartmann, Ogden Nash
Cinematography: Ray June
Production Design: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Rosalind Russell (Julie Hathaway), Don Ameche (John Hathaway), Kay Francis (Nellie Woods), Van Heflin (Elliott Morgan), Donald Meek (Capt. Makepeace Liveright), Gordon Jones (Rubber-Legs Ryan).
BW-98m. Closed captioning.
by Felicia Feaster
The Feminine Touch
Working titles of this film were Female of the Species, Heartburn and All Woman. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Van Heflin took over the role that was originally intended for John Carroll. A Hollywood Reporter production chart includes Forrester Harvey in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.