HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME. RKO Radio Pictures, 1945. Pat O’Brien (Michael J. Malone), George Murphy (Jake Justus), Carole Landis (Helene Justus), Lenore Aubert, George Zucco, Gloria Holden (as Anje Berens), Chili Williams. Based on the characters if not the novel by Craig Rice. Director: A. Edward Sutherland.

   Craig Rice did indeed write a novel of the same name and with (more or less) the same characters, but other than that there is absolutely no resemblance between the book and the movie. (Note that in the book the lawyer is named John J. Malone, not Michael. It is not clear why they thought a change was necessary. Perhaps Michael flows better in dialogue than John.)

   In any case this review will be about the film, which is perhaps is among the last of the “screwball” comedies ever made in its day. The three friends, with two of them, Jake and Helene Justus, as it turns out, on their honeymoon, attend a magic show in which the headline performer disappears for real in the middle of his act. They suspect his body may be the trunk his girl assistant is taking to the same resort lodge they decide to go to. Why Malone is going along on the honeymoon of the other two is not quite clear.

   And all kinds of funny business ensues, with both the trunk and the “body” appearing and disappearing at regular intervals. I use the word “funny” with a word of caution. A better phrase might be “mildly amusing,” not laugh out loud funny. The comedy just isn’t in sync, no matter how hard the players seem to be trying. On the other hand, the mystery just doesn’t make any sense at all.

   Watch this one then for the presence of Carole Landis, whose performance is witty, sparkling and fresh, and whenever I read one of Craig Rice’s novels in which Helene Justus is in, I am sure that from now on I will have Miss Landis in mind. George Murphy is OK, if not quite fine in his role, but Pat O’Brien seems too old for me, even though in this otherwise disappointing film both he and Landis play off each other in terms of witticisms and other banter in reasonably fine fashion.