Small Town Girl (1936) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
14 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
The Wonderful Janet Gaynor in a Excellent Cinderella Romance
HarlowMGM23 July 2007
Janet Gaynor is best remembered for being the star of three silent classics, SEVENTH HEAVEN, SUNRISE, and STREET ANGEL, for which the then 22-year-old actress won the first Best Actress Academy Award and became the last superstar of the silent era. She was wildly popular in the 1930's as well, right up to her self-imposed retirement in 1938. In the early 1930's she was in fact the most popular young actress on the screen. Alas, because most of her films were made by Fox and have had little circulation since initial release (with the very notable exception of the classic A STAR IS BORN), she tends to be overlooked among the thirties stars today. SMALL TOWN GIRL, however, is better known than most of her films mainly because the MGM film airs quite often on TCM.

SMALL TOWN GIRL is an excellent light romantic drama with an utterly endearing and empathic performance by Janet. She stars as a twenty-something girl who has become bored out of her mind by the daily routine of her life - working at her brother-in-law's "mom and pop" grocery, customers buying the same things every week, eating the same meals every specific day of the week, having to listen to mindless small talk of customers as well as the repetitive comments of friends and relatives. Perhaps worst of all is her utterly unromantic and unambitious semi-boyfriend James Stewart. Janet appears to be the only person in town who knows there's a better way of life out there but she's powerless to find it. When the kids of a nearby college and young football fans cause a slight traffic jam passing through town going to a game, Janet looks on with wistfulness at their carefree, fun, and promising lives. After almost being run down by handsome (make that gorgeous) Robert Taylor, he stops and they talk a bit. He asks is she knows a short cut to the tavern he's headed to and with his warm personality and obvious breeding has little difficulty persuading her to join him. They have a wonderful evening and Taylor gets quite plastered (apparently a frequent occurrence for him) and Janet herself imbibes in champagne for the first time but remains sober. Driving her home, Taylor impulsively decides to propose to her and drives to the justice of the peace where some of his friends were just married. Janet protests mildly but finds herself unable to turn away from this prince charming that dropped in her lap from out of nowhere and finally agrees to marry him.

Driving away after becoming man and wife, the ever intoxicated Taylor runs off the road in a slight crash in a ditch and falls asleep. The next morning, he sobers up and doesn't remember anything but learns he is now a married man. When he learns Janet wasn't drunk at the time they married he suspects her of being a fortune hunter, meanwhile she learns he was already engaged to socialite Binnie Barnes and he's the son of a wealthy man and is a promising young doctor. Taylor decides to avoid scandal they will live as man and wife in-name-only for six months and then divorce. He is quite cool now to Gaynor whom he sees as an opportunist and his hostile demeanor has Janet now disliking him as well. But as time passes Janet recaptures the attraction and affection she initially felt for him whereas he is still waiting for the day the marriage will end and he can openly see Binnie Barnes.

Janet Gaynor gives a wonderful performance in this movie, the viewer is completely with her at all stages. Her sincerity shines through every scene and shows you why 30's audiences loved her so much. She is very fine in the early scenes fully capturing small town discontentment as well as her impetuous first night with Taylor and she never makes a false move throughout the film. Robert Taylor is so dashing it's hard to imagine any woman who could resist his charms. He is excellent and like Janet, you can't help but being drawn to him even when he is unsympathetic because you know he is better than his actions. The supporting cast generally has insignificant roles but James Stewart (in one of his first films) is so credible as the bland boy next door it's a wonder he didn't end up typecast for good as the Ralph Bellamy of rural films, the perennial second placer. Elizabeth Patterson as Janet's mother and Lewis Stone as Robert's father do what they can with their small roles and it was fun to see a toddler on screen (Janet's sister Isabell Jewell's daughter) being a picky-eating little brat unlike most films of the era with perfectly mannered children. SMALL TOWN GIRL is a small gem in MGM's crown and most definitely worth seeing.
23 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
That's What She Played, A Small Town Girl
bkoganbing5 August 2007
For most of her career Janet Gaynor did nothing, but play small town girls, the best known being Esther Blodgett. But I've seen her in films like State Fair and Three Loves Has Nancy and it's the same part, the girl from the tiny hamlet who conquers the big city and the men in it. With a title like this, there was only one casting possibility.

Janet's a girl who's thoroughly stuck in a rut in her New England hamlet and yearns for a little adventure. She finds it in the person of Robert Taylor, a young doctor who comes from a wealthy Boston family. After a night's carousing Gaynor and Taylor are married, to the chagrin of his fiancé, Binnie Barnes and her boyfriend James Stewart.

Remember this is Boston so Taylor's father Lewis Stone prevails on Taylor to give the marriage a few months trial. Of course this is where the balance of the story comes in. In many ways this plot seems like a harbinger of The Way We Were.

Taylor's career was now in full swing as Small Town Girl was the next film after his breakout performance in Magnificent Obsession. Remember in that film he was a playboy who became a doctor. Here's he's a doctor who doubles as a playboy. Never mind though, feminine hearts all over the English speaking world were fluttering over MGM's latest heartthrob. My mother who was a juvenile at this time told me that Taylor's appeal back in these days was just about the same as Elvis's.

James Stewart was at the beginning of his career as well as MGM had him in about seven features in 1936, mostly in support. Interesting though with worse career management, he could have gone on playing hick roles like Elmer the boyfriend. But it was also obvious there was a spark of stardom with him as well.

Gaynor would leave the screen a few years later, Taylor was at the beginning of his career. He'd have better acting roles in his future, but for now Small Town Girl is a great example of the screen heartthrob he was at the beginning of his stardom. Fans of both stars will like what they see in Small Town Girl.
16 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Sweet Love Story
whpratt15 August 2008
Knew this would be a good film because it was directed by William A. Wellman who is a famous director. This story deals with a young girl named Kay Brannan, (Janet Gaynor) who lives in a small town and Kay is getting tired of the same people and the same things that they talk about and also having to marry the same type of man everyone else does. On night she is walking around her town and she meets up with Dr. Bob Dakin, (Robert Taylor) who takes her to a bar and they both get rather smashed. They wind up going to a justice of the peace in the middle of the morning and get married and you can just imagine what happens the next morning when they both wake up. There is plenty of comedy and a very cute love story which will warm your heart. Enjoy.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
enteraining, featuring a small town actor who soon goes to the big city
blanche-228 May 2006
"Small Town Girl" is a light, entertaining piece starring Janet Gaynor and Robert Taylor. Gaynor is a young woman sick of her humdrum life. When she meets playboy Robert Taylor, she's enchanted by him, as most women of the '30s were. While they're together, he gets smashed and proposes. Thinking of her family and what she's got to go back to, she accepts. He's engaged already, so his family encourages him to wait six months before divorcing the stranger he married. You can figure out the rest.

The two stars are very appealing. Gaynor always had a sweet, charming, and innocent demeanor; Taylor is elegant and handsome. James Stewart plays a neighborhood boy who likes Gaynor. He doesn't have much of a part and very little function in the movie, but he's cute. Seeing him in some of the early films and realizing what a mega-star he became, it's hard to believe he was ever subjected to these tiny roles, but he was. He has more to do in "Murder Man," which is actually earlier than this film. MGM seemed to just stick him where they needed him, as they did Spencer Tracy in his early years. You can't argue with their formula, as it yielded two great stars.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
small town girl weds into old money
RanchoTuVu20 December 2007
An interesting film with a playful seduction, which it does everything to avoid throughout, between a rich, young Boston doctor (Robert Taylor) from an old money family who's out carousing around in his convertible roadster after the "Big" Harvard-Yale game and by chance picks up a dissatisfied "small town girl" (Janet Gaynor) who's out aimlessly walking the streets in her little town. The socio-economic strata between old money wealth and idyllic small town middle class America (Andy Devine and James Stewart) is bridged by a love (you can't help but think it's his position and money she's after, though the film tries in just about every scene to make you believe it's real). After a few drinks at a nearby roadhouse, they stumble upon a justice of the peace in the middle of the night and (from Taylor's perspective) just for the heck of it, get married, a marriage that he must maintain for six months in light of his position in Boston society, which we see snippets of, the best one being a gala dance in Boston after they've been married for five months or so, and Taylor's original fiancé (Binnie Barnes), makes her move to reclaim him . Taylor is probably the best part in the film, though the story could have been sharper.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Small Town Girl- Is Big Town Stuff ****
edwagreen11 June 2008
Wonderful Janet Gaynor and Robert Taylor comedy depicting the differences between the upper and middle classes of society.

Gaynor longs for a life outside of her town and Taylor represents everything that she wants. Though meeting him in an unusual way, and marrying him while he is drunk, he turns his part as a total heel when he becomes sober. Reluctantly, she agrees to stay with him for 6 months in pretending that there is wedded bliss.

We know that the picture shall be devoted to how the two will find their way to love despite there being Taylor's fiancée, nicely played by a bitchy Binnie Barnes. Despite his cruelty to his wife, Taylor shows an element of compassion in his treating of a brain injured child. Somehow that child will become the link that will bring this couple together and start Barnes packing.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Good Romance
Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
Small Town Girl (1936)

*** (out of 4)

Charming Cinderella type story about a poor farm girl (Janet Gaynor) who goes out with a rich playboy (Robert Taylor) and after getting drunk the two are married. When they sober up they realize the mistake they've made but agree to stay married for six months so that the scandal won't ruin his career. Director Wellman handles the rather sappy story very well and the two stars really shine, which is the main reason this film works. Gaynor is very charming here and quite believable as the poor girl who gets caught up in something she didn't expect. Taylor is equally impressive and is able to be charming yet a jerk at the same time. The strong supporting cast includes Lewis Stone, Binnie Barnes, Andy Devine and James Stewart. The film runs a tad bit too long and is quite predictable but there's no denying the charm between the cast.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
entertaining fluff
MartinHafer27 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Because of the stars, Janet Gaynor and Robert Taylor, this pretty insignificant film rises to greater heights--despite its silly premise. Playboy Taylor is drunk and marries Gaynor. Of course once they come to their senses, they realize it was a mistake. However, they agree to wait 6 months before seeking a divorce. And, being a formulaic piece, you just KNOW how it will end up by the end of the picture. BUT, it's the journey there that is both entertaining and charming and is well worth a look. Also well worth a look is Jimmy Stewart in a supporting role as "Elmer". It's such an early effort that the studio simply doesn't know what to do with him, so he just kind of wanders about until the closing credits roll!
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
6.7 My eye.
roshanstewart12 August 2016
This film was by far the best dramedy I have scene. Simple, concise, deep enough, clearly understanding of the human-condition, weakness, and heart. This picture is absolutely brilliant and no one can take that away.

I had to wait to watch this. I have adored Bob Taylor for three months now, since I discovered him in late May, early June this year. I have been watching all the films of his, I can get my hands on.

Due to left-wing folks in Hollywood, who took his blacklisting response on communism too much to heart, he has been slowly erased from MGM, TCM, Warner classics, etc. Since his passing in 1969. Fear not- RT fans- he is making a come-back, and I am one of the few loyal fans on this planet who will partake in bringing back the magic he had on the silver-screen.

"Small Town Girl" Is one of his earlier pictures, what with his being only twenty-four years of age during its production. He made a lot of great movies this year, including "His Brother's Wife" Where he met and got to know pal and future failed marriage, Barbara Stanwyck. He also had his big break later in the year with Greta Garbo in "Camille" which is one of the few films that withstood the test of time and people still know about- only because of Garbo, of course. Anyhow, I digress; Janet Gaynor. Never had heard of her before this film, even despite being raised on all of the classics, 1920s onward (And even before) but now I am so happy this was my first impression of her.

Gaynor's portrayal of Katherine Brannan, or Kay, as she is so called, is spot-on. She has the most impeccable expressions, when it comes to the various emotions of this character throughout the film. There's the frustration in the beginning of a girl, being trapped in her own family, not being able to relate to them the way she perhaps, once had. I relate to her, so I suppose that's ultimately why I adore this film so much. I love my family, and I have recently returned to them, which is another reason I love it, cause she sees how important that is when the time comes... then there's the sassy, catty version of Miss Brannan, where she really tries hard to be the newly-wed of Mr T's character Bob "Doc" Dakin. (Whenever I read his name before, the Englishman in me pronounced it "Daw-kin" when really it is Day-kin)

Now for Mr Taylor... Ahhhhh Mr Taylor. His performance couldn't have been done better by anyone. And I mean it! Not just cause I am biased and adore the man, but to play the scuzzy-playboy in the beginning, you have no inkling is in a relationship, actually- affianced to Priscilla, and then to play this sweet innocent Kay and to take her for a ride, in all senses of the word (besides the modern vulgarity) Ohhh and then how he develops as she makes him a better doctor, a better professional- a better PERSON! Love his performance, and hers.

This is a must-see if you like any fun films from the '30s, specially '36!

ENJOY. and pay close attention, most quotable little dramedy, I've ever seen.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Predictable, but still enjoyable to watch - Robert Taylor 'rescues' Janet Gaynor
jacobs-greenwood10 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by William Wellman and featuring Janet Gaynor in the title role, a year before the two would collaborate on the first screen version of A Star is Born (1937), this slightly above average comedy romance drama also stars Robert Taylor. Ben Ames Williams's novel was scripted by John Lee Mahin and Edith Fitzgerald.

The cast also includes Andy Devine as Gaynor's insufferable brother- in-law, Lewis Stone as Taylor's understanding father and retired surgeon (Nella Walker plays his wife), Elizabeth Patterson and Frank Craven as Gaynor's humble parents, James Stewart as the "small town boy" named Elmer (his fifth credited role) who hopes one day to marry Gaynor's character, Isabell Jewell as Gaynor's sister, and Charley Grapewin as Taylor's employer, Dr. Ned Fabre.

In short order, the film gives a terrific sense of the tedium of small town life, or any life filled with the same predictable repartee. The story has Gaynor's character - bored Carvel resident Kay Brannan - whisked away by "a knight in shining armor", Taylor's overly charming and insistent Dr. Bob Dakin in a white convertible among black sedans passing through town in the traffic after the Harvard-Yale football game, for an evening's celebration at the town's (Tait's) Tavern. Their wild night results in both getting drunk, she for the first time, and later finding themselves in front of a justice of the peace, whereupon Kay's recollection of her humdrum existence allows her to somewhat consciously decide to marry the pleading bachelor, unaware that he was already engaged to a debutante more in his class, Priscilla Hyde (played by Binnie Barnes). When Bob "comes to", he learns of their "predicament" and insists his lawyer back in Boston can "fix" everything. She then learns (the full extent) of his wealth and stature, and of his engagement to "Pris", when they then drive to his home, his father's large estate.

Bob thinks Kay deliberately hooked him, and perhaps she did (to get out of Carvel), but both agree to make the best of it for 6 months, until they can quietly divorce, to avoid a scandal. Pris agrees too, though somewhat reluctantly. Initially she goes abroad for a month or two but, when she returns, she expects to start seeing Bob discretely, but regularly. Meanwhile, to keep up appearances, Bob and Kay had gone on a honeymoon cruise aboard the family yacht, captained by Edgar Kennedy's character and stewarded by Chinese mate So-So (played by Willie Fung).

During their trip, the married couple learned to stop fighting one another in private. But before it could develop into more, something that Kay clearly wished for, Bob cuts their voyage short to return to his medical practice in Boston. Bob's family and boss - Dr. Fabre - notice a change in him; he's matured (Bob seems to have finally noticed Kay as well) ... that is until Priscilla returns from her trip, and they resume their relationship. Under her influence, he returns to his irresponsible behavior and, later, Kay returns home to Carvel. There's a sentimental, perhaps even tear-jerking moment, at the film's predictable ending.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Where is Carvel?
jarrodmcdonald-11 March 2014
Robert Taylor as a romantic leading man is just as much at home with comedy as he is with melodrama, war films and westerns. Janet Gaynor is superb and it's interesting to note that Jean Harlow was the first choice, because that would have given this picture an entirely different flavor.

And here's an interesting bit of trivia: there are more than a few connections to MGM's popular Andy Hardy. The small town that Gaynor's character comes from is called Carvel. The stage play that served as the basis for the Hardy series set the action in a fictitious Idaho town called Carvel, but in most of the Andy Hardy movies, the location is much more generalized and is basically Carvel, USA. But in this film, it is clearly established that Carvel is in the east. Road signs during one of the scenes indicate that Carvel is 97 miles from Boston.

Janet Gaynor would re-team with director William Wellman for A Star Is Born. Meanwhile, MGM would remake this film in 1953, with musical scenes, starring Ann Blyth and Farley Granger.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
An entertaining romantic comedy despite the improbable premise.
Art-2224 March 1999
I'm always leery of any film in which a couple marry when they are drunk and then can't remember what happened later when they are sober. That is partially the premise in this film; it is Robert Taylor who is the drunkard and he recalls what happened with great difficulty. Janet Gaynor had been drinking, but she knew what she was doing and took the opportunity to get out of her small-town humdrum life. To me, the situation is virtually impossible, and what J.P. would marry a man who is that pie-eyed? Still, once the event happens, I found myself rather enjoying most of the rest of the movie despite its predictability. Only the yacht trip dragged a little.

I confess I was never a Taylor or Gaynor fan when I say that the best one in the film is 8th-billed James Stewart, playing Gaynor's home-town boyfriend. It wasn't too much longer when his star shone much brighter than either of the two stars in this film.
7 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Too predictable
PudgyPandaMan13 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't like this film as much as the other reviewers. I love a good love story, but this one left me cold. I found the entire plot totally predictable, from beginning to end. There is not a single surprise throughout the entire movie. It almost became laughable predicting what was going to happen next.

The cast, however, was quite good in their performances in spite of the script. So I give them kudos for making the most of it. Gaynor is very likable, so much so that you find yourself rooting for her. Taylor of course is smashingly good-looking, but also has an approachable charm to him that endeared him to so many movie fans. I think they did a horrible job on his makeup though. His eyebrows looked painted on and the eyeshadow was too noticeable at times. Binnie Barnes was easy to hate in her portrayal as the ruthless fiancé, so she did her role justice.

I think the ending was worst of all. I hated that they brought Gaynor's boyfriend, Jimm Stewart, back in the picture and had him gushing over her again. She gives the impression she might be interested, only to have Taylor show up in his fast sports car and whisk her off. I think it makes women look flighty and trifling with men's hearts. I think it did Gaynor's likable character an injustice.
3 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Small town girl who ends up quite by accident in the middle of an uptown world.
mark.waltz3 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
When big city folk invade the New England town of Carvel for a big game, STG Janet Gaynor ends up on a sudden date with BTB Robert Taylor and after a night of champagne, ends up in front of a JIP. It's a definite case of WTH the next morning when they wake up in his car with a marriage license sitting between them. This Carvel is no relation to the home of Andy Hardy in the series which began the following year at MGM, but like some omen (bad or good), Lewis Stone is cast here as Taylor's very serious father. He's a doctor who works at a Boston clinic, and is involved with the snooty and selfish Binnie Barnes who agrees to go away for six months to avoid the scandal while Taylor and Gaynor pretend to be on their honeymoon and attempting to make their marriage work.

Comedy erupts on Taylor's yacht as Gaynor deals with sea sickness, even though she's ordered the most magnificent of foods she feels are typical high society cuisine. But once they settle into their marriage, Gaynor's feelings become clear even though Barnes' sudden return from her trip means nights alone as he neglects her and the clinic (especially a young patient who adores him) and Barnes simply hangs up the phone when Gaynor desperately tries to get ahold of him. "Uncle Henry" Charley Grapewin is dapper here as the well dressed head of the clinic who has no faith in Taylor's future as a top doctor, thinking him a fool and warning Stone that he may not have a long future if his frivolous behavior continues.

This is at its most entertaining during the first half, although at over 100 minutes, it does tend to drag a bit. At times, Gaynor's small own girl is totally like Esther Blodgett during the early scenes, even though she adds some glamour along the way covering provincial innocence that Barnes considers non-threatening. But classic Hollywood always gave the underdog the man, and while Taylor may seem at home in fancy nightclubs (the one in Carvel seems way out of place) and on yachts, he's certainly not going to find happiness with the selfish Binnie no matter how much she tries to manipulate him. It's no surprise to discover that "A Star is Born's" William Wellman directed this, and it would be Gaynor's next role which brought her screen immortality.

Joining Taylor, Gaynor, Barnes and Stone are James Stewart as Gaynor's small town admirer (really given nothing to do), Nella Walker as Taylor's kindly society matron mother (who sees through Barnes and obviously would prefer Gaynor), as well as Frank Craven and Elizabeth Patterson as Gaynor's parents and Andy Devine as their son-in-law whose seemingly giant baby pelts everybody with rice pudding and potatoes. It's typical MGM light romantic fare where the praises of home and family explodes off the screen, city people are presented as pretentious and short-sighted to the rest of the world, and the sweet country folk are praised as only as Louis B. Mayer could demand them to be.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed