If You Could Only Cook (1935)

 Run Time: 70 min. | b/w
Director: William A. Seiter
Stars: w. Jean Arthur, Herbert Marshall, Leo Carrillo,
Lionel Stander
 Genres: Comedy| Romance
An Odd Couple indeed, Arthur and Marshall are great fun posing as servants of a gangster, for reasons we won’t go into. Offbeat and charming.


  1. IMDBReviewer

    August 1, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    This dry, low-key romantic comedy is very satisfying. Arthur is excellent, and Marshall is well cast as an automobile executive who wants to get away from his stuffy board of directors and his pushy fiancé, and finds happiness posing as a butler (initially so that Arthur can get work as part of a butler-cook team). Lionel Stander (as he often does) steals the show as the acerbic sidekick of gangster Carillo, and he’s given some great lines. Carillo is pleasing, too, as the gangster who wants to live like the gentry, and who’s romantically interested in Arthur, but who’s willing to hold back because he’s a gourmet and is even more interested in retaining her as a cook. The best thing about the film is that it never gets tripped up in excessive plot complications, or telegraphs its humor. Giving Carillo a gustatorial as well as romantic interest allows him to take certain actions without burdening the romance of the principals. And, after giving us enough of a glimpse of the snotty fiancé to know what Marshall’s in for, the film has the grace not to show her face again; no silly "scheming" or tiresome bared claws. In the final scene, when all are trying to convince Arthur through a locked door that she should marry, they move from straight arguments to playing roles in a "routine," but there’s no winking and signaling to signify a change in technique, it just flows quickly and naturally. The film has enough confidence in the unfolding of the relationship between the principals that the intrusion of other characters and mechanical "plot complications" can be kept to a minimum Thus Carillo’s proposal and interference at the denouement serves mainly to allow Arthur to voice her feelings about Marshall, and Carillo actually brings them together rather than holding them apart. Nice film.

  2. Anonymous

    August 1, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    This is a rather simple plot for a film, but due to exceptional writing, deft direction and the winning acting of Herbert Marshall and Jean Arthur, it's a wonderful movie. This is a great old romantic film that would be great to see with someone you love.

    Marshall plays the CEO of a huge car manufacturing company. When his ideas are rejected by the board, he gets annoyed with the business. At about the same time, he meets Arthur, who has no idea he's a rich big-shot. She actually thinks he's an out of work schnook and convinces him to apply to a job with her–she as a cook and he as a butler in the same household. Since Ms. Arthur is so charming and sweet, he agrees and neither she nor the employer know his true calling. Later, this misunderstanding REALLY gets out of hand, but I don't want to spoil the film by explaining further.

    The bottom line is that the freshness and delightful nature of the film make up for the fact that the plot line is pretty hard to believe. Unless you are an old grouch or hate old films (people like this need to be shot), you will like this film.

    Interestingly, the film was so good that Columbia Pictures' president, Harry Cohn, tried a "fast one". Since Frank Capra worked at the studio and was now famous for IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (having practically swept the Oscars) and since IF YOU ONLY COULD COOK was such a sweet film, it was marketed as a Capra Film–even though Capra had NOTHING to do with it!! As a result, Capra sued and Cohn nearly lost his job until it was all smoothed over and tempers subsided.

  3. Anonymous

    August 1, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    The Austin Film Society showed this entertaining old film last week on election night. The receptive audience found laughs in many lines that still seem current, especially about unemployment, the want ads and being broke.

    Jean Arthur looked lovely in this movie, and Herbert Marshall was perfect. What a wonderful voice that man had! My husband thinks that his walk may have inspired C3PO’s formal motions, although the robot had a metal leg, not a wooden one like Mr. Marshall’s.

    Lionel Stander was already in full bellow, many decades before ‘Hart to Hart’, and Leo Carillo was a treat as the gangster employer. It was a surprise to hear them use the term ‘wise guy’ for a prospective member – I didn’t realize it was already being used back then.

  4. Anonymous

    August 1, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    this movie is in the spirit of pursuing your dreams and following your heart. it’s the wonderfully silly story of a auto designer whose company wants to keep making what sells rather that try his new designs. while soul-searching in the park he meets unemployed Jean Arthur who thinks he’s down on his luck also. she sees a job for a married couple (a live in butler and cook), turns to him and ergo, the title. anyway, it’s a lot of fun. for some reason this isn’t available on video and isn’t shown on TCM etc. so i had to find a copy on eBay. and now our town is having a Jean Arthur film festival (why didn’t they consult me!? :-)). this is my favorite of Jean Arthur’s movies not available on video, followed by Party Wire.

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