‘Having Wonderful Time’ (1938)

Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in 'Having Wonderful Time' (1938)
Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in ‘Having Wonderful Time’ (1938)

For my first film post, I thought it would be fitting to do a short review of my blog’s namesake.

Having Wonderful Time is one of those hidden gems that only fans of Ginger Rogers or it’s various array of pre-stardom stars seem to come across. Once you do come across it, however, you start to question why it isn’t readily available on DVD. It’s just too enchanting and historically significant to be relegated to the back shelf of the Classic Hollywood archives!

I myself was lucky enough to see it late one night on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) that often screens those wonderful hard to find films from the Golden Age. The print was in terrible condition, washed out to within an inch of its life, but it was part of a package deal that television companies made in the 1950s that licensed them to broadcast films from the RKO library. These films were reprints bought by the C&C Cola company as a means to advertise its product during the commercials and they were in horrible condition then so you can only imagine what they’re like today. For a Classic movie buff though, with no other means to view these rare gems (or at least back when I first saw it) it was a wonderland of possibilities and the dreadful prints was no match for the exciting opportunity to see them!

Ginger Rogers plays Thelma (Teddy) Shaw, an “educated” New York office girl, fed up with the hard times of the Depression and dying to get away. She saves as much money as she can in order to take the holiday she’s been longing for. Camp Kare-Free’s magazine advertisement declares: “Spend your vacation in this cultural background… where one can associate with a select number of cultured and sports-loving ladies and gentlemen.” Once there, she discovers it’s not at all the “cultured get-away” that the ad claims; the camp is filled with unruly youth and quirky characters, all threatening to ruin her relaxation, but Teddy soon comes to realise that these people might just be the key to a fun time.

Lobby Card
‘Having Wonderful Time’ (1938) Lobby Card

Now if you’re anything like me, you LOVE a good supporting cast. Often a film’s credibility is built on the capability of its supporting actors and Having Wonderful Time delivers an impressive ensemble indeed! Douglas Fairbanks Jr. plays Teddy’s love interest and he’s as charming as ever, Lucille Ball plays a loud, fast talking, often irritating (in an amusing way) fellow camper and the film also boasts the first screen appearance of Red Skelton in a comedy pratfall, slapstick routine. Throw in Eve Arden and Ann Miller and you’ve got a stellar bunch and although Ann Miller’s lines were all cut from the film, her presence is still felt as you can see her character just oozing with attitude!

Ginger Rogers, unknown actress and Lucille Ball in 'Having Wonderful Time' (1938)
Ginger Rogers, unknown actress and Lucille Ball in ‘Having Wonderful Time’ (1938)

This film is wise-cracking, fast-moving and sometimes poignant comedy gold! It really should be given more attention and some tender loving care with a fully restored DVD release! It is available from purchase from the Warner Archive but it would be lovely to have some sort of audio commentary (I know Turner Classic Movie’s Robert Osbourne is particularly fond of the film) or introduction.

Sadly here in Australia, our version of TCM is no where near as good as it is in the US and it’s only available through pay TV (cable). Having Wonderful Time though, as an RKO film, will never be played as for some reason our TCM only screens films produced by either MGM or Warner Brothers. Something I will have to investigate.

But, that being said, it’s well worth seeking out. You’ve got a lovely little romance, a wonderfully funny script and the bonus of witnessing some of the early work of the film’s supporting cast members, many of whom have gone on to become Hollywood greats themselves! Its a real treasure of a film; historically interesting and thoroughly entertaining!

Jessica-Ellen X

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7 thoughts on “‘Having Wonderful Time’ (1938)

  1. Came to your site because this film is playing this month on WatchTCM. Do you know why there is no “a” in the title? I don’t. Back to the secretarial pool. btw nice looking site.

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    1. Thanks so much!! The film’s title is derived from a phrase used quite often on postcards back in the good old days. Vacationers would send postcards back to their loved ones with the message “Having wonderful time!” Kind of like an abbreviation or slang. Hope that makes sense =)

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  2. Those middle of the night ABC classic movies are just the best thing on TV! So many I’ve never heard of that turn out to be fantastic! I hope they show this one again, it sounds awesome. I look forward to more of your reviews.

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