The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)

Directed by Sam Wood

Plot

Cantankerous tycoon John P. Merrick (Charles Coburn) goes undercover as a shoe clerk at his own New York department store to identify agitators trying to form a union, after seeing a newspaper picture of his employees hanging him in effigy. He befriends fellow clerk Mary Jones (Jean Arthur) and her recently fired boyfriend Joe O’Brien (Robert Cummings), a labor union organizer. Through his firsthand experiences, he grows more sympathetic to the needs of his workers, while finding unexpected love with sweet-natured clerk Elizabeth Ellis (Spring Byington).

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Such an easy movie to watch – delightful in all ways

10/10
Author: 2server (2server@home.com) from Ottawa, Canada
7 April 2001

The tone of this movie is peppy and fast. Not a dull moment. The comedy is sophisticated and yet of the belly-laugh variety. This movie has entertained me and my friends over the years and is as refreshing now as it was the first time. Charles Laughton, Spring Byington, S.Z. Szakall, Bob Cummings, Edmond Gwenn (booooooo) and of course Jean Arthur – what a cast!!!!! This is a representative of the golden era of social-conscious entertainment – movies with a message – the New Deal is there and there is hope for the overworked and underappreciated. The employees who devote their lives and skills to the firm in order to give a better life to their children – this was the era preceding the “me, me, and only me” baby boom where everything was given to the kids without question. I can relate to this after constantly listening to the stories of my parents who were of the same generation as those employees. All gone now, and the memories remain.

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Cute and funny, one of Coburn best films

8/10
Author: (timmauk@hotmail.com) from st. pete, fl usa
19 June 2001

Ever since I saw Jean Arthur in “The More The Merrier”, I fell in love with her. What beauty, what talent, what a VOICE!

This is one of her better films. More reminiscent of a Capra film. It’s the working class vs the wealthy uncaring class. This goes beyond that though. It tells the tale of a rich man(Coburn) who hears of a revolt at one of his businesses. He wants it stopped and he wants heads to roll!!

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When he thinks the investigation is not going to his liking, he decides to go undercover himself. Now this is where the REAL story starts. Now he is on THEIR ground and he sees for himself what these working class “pigs” are really like. They are just people. People with little money and big hearts, who just want a better life.

Everyone is wonderful in this film. Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn work terrific together as always(no wonder they did three movies together). I was surprised to see Robert Cummings in a major role back in 1941. I didn’t know he was a star before Television.

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The only real disappointment I had with this film was Edmund Gwenn. I could not believe it. The man that IS Santa Claus played a mean rude little man. EGAD!!

Seriously though, This is a MUST SEE for those who love good hearted comedies. Just makes you feel so good. An 8 out of 10.

Glorious, meaningful farce

Author: ivan beshkov (ivanbeshkov@msn.com) from LOS ANGELES
14 August 2000

It’s so full of good, common sense, compassion, wit and joy, that I can barely believe it. How depressing that this masterpiece should never be shown on TV (to my knowledge). It is not the first time that Norman Krasna has drawn my attention. This man is a genius. He writes with a total, unflagging self-assurance and perfection.

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This movie just cannot be improved upon. There are really no faults in it. The humor is funny without being demeaning, there is not the slightest mistake in taste or judgment. What makes it even more astonishing is that it was made during war time, when patriotism tends to cause people to become sentimental. This movie doesn’t spare its country one whit. It does not include some “bad apples” among the workers. On the contrary, it implies that those who are usually referred to as bad apples are in fact the good ones! This movie is very much in the spirit of Frank Capra, and his rooting for the little man, but it outdoes Capra at his own game. There is more Capra in this movie than in all Capra movies put together. Krasna doesn’t just root for the underdog, he fights his battles and he WINS! (1990 diary entry).

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Production

Frank Ross and Norman Krasna decided to produce a movie together starring Jean Arthur for $600,000 borrowed from the bank. The script was written in ten weeks and then Sam Wood came on board as director. Krasna described the experience of making the film as one of the best in his career.

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