The Devil and Miss Jones
|The Devil and Miss Jones|
|Directed by||Sam Wood|
|Produced by||Frank Ross|
|Written by||Norman Krasna|
|Music by||Roy Webb|
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling Sr.|
|Edited by||Sherman Todd|
Frank Ross-Norma Krasna
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
The Devil and Miss Jones is a 1941 comedy film starring Jean Arthur, Robert Cummings, and Charles Coburn. Directed by Sam Wood from a screenplay by Norman Krasna, the film was the product of an independent collaboration between Krasna and producer Frank Ross (Jean Arthur's husband). Their short-lived production company released two films through RKO Radio Pictures (Miss Jones and the later A Lady Takes a Chance released in 1943). The film was well received by critics upon its release and garnered Oscar nominations for Coburn and Krasna.
Cantankerous tycoon John P. Merrick (Charles Coburn) goes undercover as a shoe clerk at "Neely's", one of his New York department stores, to identify agitators trying to form a union, after seeing a newspaper picture of his employees hanging him in effigy.
In the store he takes on a new persona, Thomas Higgins. After almost failing the minimum intelligence test he is sent to join the shoe department. There he befriends fellow clerk Mary Jones (Jean Arthur) and her recently fired boyfriend Joe O'Brien (Robert Cummings), a labor union organizer. As the film progresses, his experiences cause him to grow more sympathetic to the needs of his workers. He also starts to fall in love with the sweet-natured clerk Elizabeth Ellis (Spring Byington).
During a beach day with his coworkers John begins to see a different side of Joe after he helps him avoid an arrest at a local police station by reciting the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Afterwards John joins Joe, Elizabeth, and Mary on the beach, where he and Elizabeth nap until dark. Believing the two to be fully asleep, Joe and Mary discuss the union attempts and the future of their relationship. Unbeknownst to them, John listens in and after Joe leaves he pretends to awake, taking the opportunity to grab a list Joe dropped of employees willing to strike.
The remaining trio then travel home via subway, where John drops a card showing that his undercover persona was "working" for Merrick. This, along with other factors, comes to the conclusion with Joe that he is a spy. Desperate to regain the list, Joe and Mary try unsuccessfully to regain the list and they, along with John, end up in the store manager's office. Disgusted with the treatment of the employees, John berates the store manager, who is unaware of John's true identity. Emboldened by John, Mary declares that they have a list of 400 employees who will strike. The manager tricks the group into giving him the list. When they realize the manager's deceit, John and Mary take back the list and destroy it by eating it, after which Mary uses the intercom system to successfully encourage the entire store to strike.
In the following days all of the employees picket Merrick's home. John decides to finally reveal his identity and has Mary, Elizabeth, and Joe meet him and his staff to discuss terms. They are initially unaware of his identity but upon discovery the trio are shocked: Joe faints, Mary screams, and Elizabeth stares up at John in disbelief as John asks her if she would be willing to go back on a statement she made about not wanting to marry a rich man. The film then cuts to a wedding party on a cruise liner, showing that there has been a joint wedding: John has married Elizabeth and Mary has married Joe. The party is made up of all of the store employees and it's shown that John has paid for all of them to take a Hawaiian vacation. They sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".
- Jean Arthur as Mary Jones, store clerk
- Charles Coburn as John P. Merrick, richest man in the world aka Thomas Higgins
- Robert Cummings as Joe O'Brien
- Edmund Gwenn as Hooper, section manager
- Spring Byington as Elizabeth Ellis, clerk
- S. Z. Sakall as George (Merrick's butler)
- William Demarest as First detective
- Walter Kingsford as Mr. Allison, store manager
- Montagu Love as Harrison
- Richard Carle as Oliver
- Charles Waldron as Needles
- Edwin Maxwell as Withers
- Edward McNamara as Police desk sergeant
- Robert Emmett Keane as Tom Higgins
- Florence Bates as store shopper
- Pat Flaherty as Mark - Policeman with pickpocket
- Irving Cummings
- Minta Durfee as Customer (uncredited)
- William Elmer as Attendant at Jim's bath house
- Frank Mills as Attendant at third bath house
- Victor Potel as Attendant at first bath house
- Walter Tetley as Stock boy
Frank Ross and Norman Krasna decided to produce a movie together starring Jean Arthur (Ross' wife) based on a story by Krasna. The three formed a partnership and borrowed $600,000 from a bank to finance the film.
The script was written in ten weeks and then Sam Wood came on board as director. Krasna described the experience of making the film as one of the best in his career.
The film made a profit of $117,000.
Academy Award nominations
Adaptations to other media
On November 14, 1941, Philip Morris Playhouse presented The Devil and Miss Jones. The adaptation starred Lana Turner. The story was also adapted as a radio play on two broadcasts of Lux Radio Theatre, first on January 19, 1942 with Turner and Lionel Barrymore, then on March 12, 1945 with Linda Darnell and Frank Morgan. It was also adapted twice on The Screen Guild Theater, first on June 7, 1943 with Laraine Day, Charles Coburn and George Murphy, again on August 12, 1946 with Van Johnson and Donna Reed. It was also adapted on the October 23, 1946 broadcast of Academy Award Theater, starring Charles Coburn and Virginia Mayo.
In 1950 Ross announced he wanted to make the film as a musical for his then wife Joan Caulfield. However it was not made.
- "The Devil and Miss Jones: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p56
- "Minta Durfee Filmography". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on October 19, 2015. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
- By Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. (1941, Mar 07). "Easy to make a picture, if combination is right." The Christian Science Monitor
- Norman Krasna (18 May 1941) "Some Authors Die Happy", New York Times, p. X4
- By DOUGLAS W CHURCHILL Special to The New York Times. (1940, May 16). "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD." New York Times
- "Clark Gable Goes Hunting." (1940, Dec 09). Los Angeles Times
- "United States Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit - Cummings vs Universal 1944". Internet Archive. p. 565.
- Schallert, E. (1941, Feb 03). "Annabella to resume; R.K.O. salaries upped." Los Angeles Times
- By Douglas W. Churchill, Special to The New York Times. (1941, Mar 08)."Conflict over Lillian Gish appearing in film seen -- 'Night in Rio' and 'Mad Emperor' open today" New York Times
- "Lana Turner Friday Star on 'Playhouse'". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 8, 1941. p. 22. Retrieved July 22, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Charles Coburn Is 'Academy' Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 19, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 29, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Drama: 'Devil and Miss Jones' Set as Musical; Wayne Would Direct 'Alamo'" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 28 Jan 1950: 11.
- The Devil and Miss Jones at IMDb
- The Devil and Miss Jones at AllMovie
- The Devil and Miss Jones at the TCM Movie Database
- The Devil and Miss Jones at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Devil and Miss Jones on Lux Radio Theatre: January 19, 1942
- The Devil and Miss Jones on The Screen Guild Theater: June 7, 1943
- The Devil and Miss Jones on Lux Radio Theatre: March 12, 1945
- The Devil and Miss Jones on The Screen Guild Theater: August 12, 1946
- The Devil and Miss Jones on Academy Award Theater: October 23, 1946