A good comedy should look effortless. The dialogue and situations should come out as if such situations occurred daily in every day life, no matter how preposterous they are. That's essential. It's also elusive and bloody hard to achieve. To write good comedy is much harder than to write good drama. Then there is something as trying too hard. Writers and directors with no feel for it try to emulate successful films, often wasting good actors in the process. Of course, in such cases the material doesn't hold up. The dialogue is uninspired and forced; the situations are formulaic; the timing flops. All of these are present in the worst James Cagney film I have seen to date, Lloyd Bacon's "Boy Meets Girl" and serious contender to the worst comedy produced by Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s. I use the word "comedy" loosely...
Starring James Cagney and Pat O'Brien as two scheming screenwriters and Ralph Bellamy as their studio producer, this is an aimless film. When the two protagonists find out that a waitress at the studio is about to have a baby (she's a single mum, but there's Hays code justification for the unfortunate situation) they decide to show him growing on screen (reality TV before its time, this is actually one of the good ideas that the film had) in order to save their careers and to undermine that of an actor of westerns they despise. There are a few more twists and turns to the plot, which never slows down, with one chaotic moment after another. There are few films which can sustain this, such as Howard Hawks' "Bringing up Baby" and "His Girl Friday" or Billy Wilder's "One, Two, Three". As you might have figure it out, this one can't. I think this was meant to be a satire on Hollywood but it lacks the bite of "Show People" or "Sunset Blvd." and simply isn't funny. It also meant to be a screwball comedy but it's too chaotic in its own chaos. The screenwriters create havoc just for the fun of it. To be honest, those two characters should have been fired and blacklisted and never allowed to work in the industry again. It really surprised me to find out that the film was written by the same people responsible for "My Favorite Wife"!
Another massive issue I had with the film was the casting and acting. Cagney and O'Brien are the stars and are clearly uninterested (or knew how weak the film was). They either look bored or try too hard, and their usual chemistry falls flat. However, bad as that is there is worst. Ralph Bellamy's character is too stupid (a not too subtle attack on film producers) but he does his best. He fails. The absolute low point is the romantic couple. She is Marie Wilson and her dizzy waitress got on my nerves. He is Bruce Lester and he was even more irritating (although much less screen time) than she was, playing the stiff upper lip Englishman who wants to break into the movies. Both also needed to rethink their careers, as neither could act.
There are two positives to the film. The first is the actor that plays the cowboy. He is actually playing a satire of himself and his screen persona and while his lack of acting ability is painfully obvious, he should get brownie points for fair play. The second is the best thing in the whole film: Ronald Reagan's few scenes as a radio announcer at a film première. He's funny, relaxed and natural. Everything the rest of the cast isn't!