Before watching the movie:
While the first description I saw for this movie was just about a journalistic rivalry, the second source I saw had the more interesting information that the socialite one journalist invented to meet deadlines appears in real life impersonated by the other one. So this is much less of a His Girl Friday relative than I thought, and sounds about as wide open in terms of production as it can get.
After watching the movie:
Singer-dancer-actress Elaine Bradford attempts to audition for a stage director looking for her big chance to be a star, but while he has no interest in her, she does hit it off with his housemate Peter Carlton, a gossip columnist, but they’re separated before he can get her name or contact information. Later, coming up dry for column fodder at a fancy party, Peter’s friend Freddie Rathbone helps him concoct a fictitious star of the social scene that’s too interesting for anyone to ignore. Mrs. Smythe-Smythe, lover of a Maharajah, famed huntress and dancer, possessed of beauty to drive all the men mad. Mrs. Smythe-Smythe is quickly in all the papers, but Peter’s paper always has the scoop because no one else can find her. Elaine puts on an Indian costume and goes to see Peter claiming to be Mrs. Smythe-Smythe, then reveals herself to him, with the plan that since she doesn’t seem to mind him using her name, Elaine could very well also use it to make some public appearances and try to get that big break. As soon as “Mrs. Smythe-Smythe” actually appears in town, the wife of Peter’s editor orders him to arrange for her to be the guest of honor at her Indian-themed party, double-billed with the very real and famous hunter Colonel Edgerton of India.
While the first summary I read did call Elaine Peter’s “rival”, I entirely read into it that she’s also a journalist. But I don’t see any rivalry between Peter and Elaine. They argue about how to manage the hoax, and she rightly gives Peter and Freddie tongue lashings for getting her into stuff she doesn’t want to do, but they’re not rivals, they’re on the same team. I read two different summaries that said two different things and when I was watching the movie I felt for a while like neither of them was about the movie I was seeing.
There are several songs in the movie, but it’s in the class of musicals where they collected the songs they had lying around and found ways to excuse their use in the movie. It’s a show business movie so there’s plenty of opportunity, but I’m always turned off by musical numbers that don’t have anything to do with the story. They at least illustrate moments of Elaine demonstrating her ability, but nothing is at Singin’ in the Rain levels of worth stopping the movie for.
Slow pacing (to modern standards) from a 1930s movie is to be expected, but I think the reason this 86 minute movie felt so long was more to do with plotting. There are multiple times when it felt like it was wrapping up and then they get into trouble again. Somehow it doesn’t feel like the word I want to use is episodic, but maybe it’s more like a classic serial, where even as plot threads wrap up there’s something else creating a cliffhanger. This movie is a bit of fun, especially if you like random 30s songs, but it’s nothing I’m going to be looking back fondly on.