Where There's a Will (1936)





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Will Hay plays Benjamin Stubbins, an unsuccessful and incompetent English lawyer with a tendency to tip the bottle and an inability to pay any of the considerable debts he has managed to accumulate. His wealthy family, of course, disapproves of him and has taken custody of his daughter so that she will receive a proper upbringing. Stubbins does not improve matters by visiting his brother-in-law and accidentally getting the butler drunk when he recommends alcohol as the cure for his toothache. He gets no more respect at the office, where lazy office boy Willie ignores his instructions in favor of reading the comics. Stubbins' life changes, however, when a gang of American crooks shows up. They know that the safe to a bank is located directly underneath his office and they employ the unsuspecting solicitor to track down a family tree, thus keeping him out of the office while they stage a robbery. Later, they show up at Stubbins' brother-in-law's house during a Christmas party, planning to fleece the host and his guests. Fortunately, Stubbins also shows up, disguised as Santa, and after the usual chase, the gang is captured.
Comedy , Drama
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Frederick Piper
as a Fingerprint
Hartley Power
as Duke Wilson
Norma Varden
as Margaret Wimpleton
John Turnbull
as Sgt. Collins
H.F. Maltby
as Sir Roger Wimpleton
Gina Malo
as Goldie Kelly
Peggy Simpson
as Barbara Stubbins
Will Hay
as Benjamin Stubbins
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Critic Reviews for Where There's a Will

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Audience Reviews for Where There's a Will


No one stutters and blusters and thinks more of himself than he ought to quite like Will Hay, an English comedian who opened for W. C. Fields, and shares something of the latter's uniquely brilliant comic delivery, and virtually none of his cynicism or misanthropy. This time, Hay is a down-on-his luck lawyer trying (and mostly failing) to pay the rent, to (literally) keep the lights on, to impress his daughter (who is under the mistaken impression that her father is a well-to-do attorney) while she's in town for Christmas, and (always) to find a way to sneak another drink. Of course, things get complicated when he finds himself inadvertently mixed up with a gang of American bank robbers who seem to have stepped out of a Damon Runyon story, and the whole thing culminates at a big Christmas party with Scotland Yard chasing everybody around and Hay dressed up as Santa Claus. What's marvelous about Hay's particular brand of comedy (he not only starred in the film, but also co-wrote the script, and even directed some of his other pictures, though frequent collaborator William Beaudine helms this one) is the beating heart at the core of all the apparent frivolity--when it looks like Hay will finally be revealed to his daughter as the fraud he is, there's real heartbreak beneath the humor. And Hay and Beaudine surround his bumbling would-be lawyer with a whole host of vibrant players, interesting faces, terrific voices, and scene stealers, creating a sort of Wodehousian wonderland in which to set their screwball story. It's a shame that Hay remains largely forgotten today, especially when a number of his films (this one included) seem to be in the public domain and are now so easily available from sites like Internet Archive. There are funnier comedies than "Where There's a Will," but there are few so disarmingly warm and sweet and charming.

Davey Morrison Dillard
Davey Morrison Dillard

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