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That Certain Thing 1928
Description: Gold-digger Molly marries the heir to a fortune, but things go badly when he is disinherited and begins working as a ditch digger.
Released: 01 Jan 1928 Director: Frank Capra Writers: Elmer Harris (story), Elmer Harris (screenplay), Frank Capra (screenplay), Al Boasberg (titles) Actors: Viola Dana, Ralph Graves, Burr McIntosh, Aggie Herring Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
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That Certain Thing Reviews:

That Certain Thing is the storyline of a gold digger (Viola Dana) from a tenement house. Her mother uses her to take care of her two brothers, but they are a loving family. Although Dana's hero has the occasion to marry a streetcar conductor, she refuses and holds out for a millionaire. Everyone makes fun of her for her fantasy, but are surprised when one day she really does meet a millionaire, son of the owner of the famous ABC restaurant chain. The two marry hastily, but the girl's dreams of wealth are shattered when the rich father disowns his son for marrying a gold digger. However, she truly loves her fresh husband and the two are unexpectedly successful at making it on their own.A rare glimpse of film star Viola Dana, this movie is a lot of fun. Dana's role is accessible, natural, and entertaining. She displays a knack for comedy as well as an ability to do drama.The mechanics of the movie are a lot of fun too. The camera displays sophisticated late silent techniques like mobility. The game cards are also incredibly clever.If you like movies like My Greatest Girl, It, or The Patsy, you will play this film.


I viewed this movie in the David Bradley collection. In 1928, Frank Capra directed "That Certain Thing", starring Viola Dana, and then he instantly followed it with "So this Is Love", starring Shirley Mason ... apparently never realising that Viola Dana and Shirley Mason were sisters. (Capra mentioned both actresses in his autobiography, but never mentioned their relationship.) "That Certain Thing" is a sprightly romantic comedy of the late silent era, with some of the distinctive "Capra-corn" elements already firmly in place.Ralph Graves (Capra's favorite leading boy of this period) is perfect as Andy Charles, son of A.B. Charles the lunch-wagon millionaire (well-played by Burr McIntosh), who got rich by mass-producing lunches for working people. When Andy marries poor-girl Molly (Viola Dana), old boy Charles suspects (not entirely without reason) that Molly married young Andy for his money, and Charles Snr promptly disinherits his son. But Andy is no spoilt playboy; to help himself and his fresh wife, he rolls up his sleeves and goes to work on a building site. Molly genuinely loves Andy, even though she was hoping to latch onto his father's bank balance, and actually she dutifully packages her husband a box lunch that she made herself.When a minor trouble on the worksite makes Andy lose his appetite, he hands his lunch to one of his workmates ... who is so impressed with Molly's handiwork, he vows he'd be willing to pay nice cash for a lunch like this. Andy passes this news to Molly, and later she's making box lunches which Andy eagerly peddles to his workmates. When word gets out that Molly's lunches are better than anything these terrible working stiffs are likely to search elsewhere (especially at the Charles restaurant chain), the nickels and dimes begin rolling in. Cute later Molly and Andy are giving Andy's millionaire father some serious tournament in the lunch business...There are some perfect Capra touches here, including some populist humour of the type which is usually associated with the peak years of Capra's long-term collaboration with screenwriter Robert Riskin. (In Capra's films, many of the distinctive touches which movie critics usually attribute to Capra are now Riskin's work.) One of Andy's co-workers has purchased a ham sandwich from the A.B. Charles sandwich company ... but he complains about the scanty portion of ham, which has apparently been sliced "with a razor". Sure enough, in his office, millionaire Charles is gleefully saying his cronies the secret of his success: "Slice the ham THIN." At the end of the film, when Molly's sandwich business is prospering, she reveals the secret of her own success: "Slice the ham THICK." This is such a typically Riskin-esquire piece of business, I was surprised to learn that Riskin didn't work on this film. The dialogue (on silent-film intertitles) is by Al Boasberg, better known for his work with comedians such as Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers."That Certain Thing" suffers from the tiny budget typical of Columbia movies from this period, especially noticeable in the scenes shot in the "luxurious" office of millionaire A.B. Charles, which is now rather cramped and spartan. In his autobiography, Capra reveals how he was able to economise on this movie: the box lunches used as props during filming were distributed afterwards to feed the cast and crew!"That Certain Thing" (the movie's game is never explained) is an perfect silent film, with nice lead performances from Graves and Dana, two actors whose careers failed to prosper in the talking-film era. I want that they were better known, and I want that this film were better known as well.


Tuesday July 12, 7:00pm Historic Everett Theater"Here's your handkerchief." "Keep it, and blow your brains out!"In his first movie with Columbia Pictures we see the beginnings of what would create Frank Capra the nice populist director of the nineteen thirties. That Certain Thing was produced in 1928 with a budget somewhere short of $25,000.00 which shows in the production values but the movie also reveals how a real master can create so much from so little. Capra alternately described the studio as a junkyard and a gold mine and his boss Harry Cohn as a bully, but ultimately found the home he required to flourish and develop what would become his ability to portray the moral common boy at odds with an unjust world. His movies became a light in the darkness for millions of depression era Americans. Along with his astonishing success Capra brought to the screen a fresh cinematic grammar taking motion pictures closer to a naturalistic viewpoint and farther from the stage. That Certain Thing is the tale of "a woman from across the tracks", played adorably by Viola Dana, in find of a rich husband. She bumps into the son of a restaurant magnate and is married within hours then disinherited by her rich fresh father-in-law only to have her good-natured revenge in the end. Quick paced and filled with typical Capraesque humor this movie offers a glimpse of the nice work to follow. Live accompaniment at the Everett's house organ by Dennis James in this 1902 landmark theater could create for a memorable night. Tickets are sold at the door on present night only so receive there early.



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