The film is over 75 years old but it hits all the right notes of what a movie should be. The subject is timely. Workers’ rights. What protections does an employee have if after 10 or 20 years service they can be let go just because they can be replaced by cheaper labor?
The love stories are current. One couple facing possible separation because the man can’t find job in the same town as the girl and won’t live off her salary. The second (older couple) finding each other late in life, realizing that money isn’t as important as emotional connections.
The acting is superb. There’s comedy. Poignancy.
The film stars Jean Arthur, name above the title, in fact title card all to herself.
Then other title credits include the name of the picture. The Devil (with the face of Coburn)–then the next title card–And Miss Jones (with the face of Arthur). The next card says: With Robert Cummings, Charles Coburn, (and in smaller type) Spring Byington, Edmund Gwenn, S.Z. Sakall, and William Demarest.
The Devil and Miss Jones, released by RKO in 1941, holds up today. (Don’t confuse it with the porno film The Devil IN Miss Jones.)
Although Arthur is top billed, Coburn is the real star of this movie.
He received an Oscar nomination as did writer Norman Krasna. (The love triangle between senior citizens Coburn, Byington and Gwenn was reprised 10 years later in a delightful film, Louisa.) Miss Jones was a huge success at the time. Made for $600,000 and grossing a million and a half. More importantly, it stands the test of time, the definition of a true movie classic.
Now, on to the answers to our Coburn Quiz:
1) Question: Coburn began making Hollywood movies relatively late in life. How old was he when he started? a) 37; b) 52; c) 41; or d) nearly 60.
Answer: Old indeed, by Hollywood standards. The correct answer is d). By our count, the actor was 56 when he began making movies. Over the next 28 years (he died in 1961 at the age of 84) Coburn worked hard to make up for lost time.
2) Question: Coburn is not related to actor James Coburn. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: a) True. Although various internet sites claim James is the grandson of Charles, family members have questioned the link. So, we give this one a provisional ‘true.’
3) Question: Coburn won a best supporting actor Oscar once, and was nominated in that category two more times for which of the following pictures? a) 1946’s The Green Years; b) 1941’s The Devil and Miss Jones; c) 1943’s The More The Merrier; or d) 1956’s Around the World in 80 Days.
Answer: Coburn won his Oscar for The More The Merrier, and was nominated for The Green Years and The Devil and Miss Jones.
4) Question: Coburn was known for sporting a monocle, but it wasn’t medically necessary since his vision in both eyes was fine. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: b) False. When asked, Coburn would say that I wear a monocle because of my eyesite. We take his word for it.
5) Question: Which one of these actresses did Coburn NOT appear with? a) Marilyn Monroe; b) Jane Russell; c) Myrna Loy; or d) Gene Tierney.
Answer: c) Myrna Loy. As pictured above, Coburn appeared with Monroe and Russell in 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and with Tierney in 1943’s Heaven Can Wait.