Jimmy Stewart Project #44: Small Town Girl (Wellman, 1936)

This is gets filed under “films that had less than 20 minutes of Jimmy.” Unlike Rose Marie, where he shows up only in the last moments of the film, this one started out with an appearance in about the first ten minutes, so I was thinking maybe he had a half-decent amount of screen time.


But the movie wasn’t bad. It follows Kay Brennan (Janet Gaynor), a small town girl yearning to get out and have an adventure. Her chance comes when Dr. Robert Dakin (Robert Taylor) pulls his car over asking for directions out of town following a football game. He asks her to come along with him, and they end up partying at a tavern. Now drunk, they proceed to get married.

Cut to the next morning, when everyone is sober and realizes what happened. Dakin, an up-and-coming surgeon from a well-off family, was engaged to be married. His parents, hoping to avoid too much scandal, propose that the couple remain married for six months before getting a quiet divorce. Dakin’s stuck-up fiance takes the news pretty well, thinking that Kay is no threat to her eventual marriage.

Kay starts to fall for Dakin, but he seems to only be waiting for the six months to pass. Frustrated, she returns home to her family and small town life. Dakin finally realizes his love for Kay and they reconcile as he stops her for directions the same way he did when they first met.

Jimmy plays Elmer, the guy who wishes to go out with Kay, but represents more of the small town monotony that she wants to leave behind. There’s not even much to critique here; he’s barely on screen.

It’s kind of fun to know how someone’s career panned out, because I think, “Don’t worry, give it two years, you’ll work with Capra and be a big hit.” (Well, You Can’t Take It With You is fun, but I guess really, it’s the performance in the next year that is defining.) I guess while a lot of these early movies are enjoyable enough, they aren’t really “Stewart films” to me. A lot of times, a large part of that is the amount of screen time. But it is fun to be able to skip around and see where an actor was at different parts of their career, especially someone like Jimmy who had major periods and landmark films in their filmography.

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