“Calling all Rimplegars!”
During the Great Depression everyone fell on hard times. The rich were the most hard hit because they were the ones who had money invested in everything. Films of this time were all about making the common people feel better and giving them a laugh. Some like My Man Godfrey were about looney rich people who needed to be humbled or some were like The Thin Man with a rich glamorous couple with not a care in the world but were witty and charming. A few films showed a family where the father had died and left the family with nothing and usually it is a drama where the daughter loses some of her dignity to help her family or help herself. Three Cornered Moon is a mix of the last scenario and My Man Godfrey. It is silly yet endearing and loving.
The Rimplegar family are a wealthy family that has fallen on a bit of hard times with the Depression. The laundry man comes and the mother (Mary Boland) is short thirty cents. She goes all throughout the house asking her four children- Elizabeth (Claudette Colbert), Kenneth, Douglas, and Eddie- if they have any change but all of them are in their own worlds. Kenneth is pining for a girl and keeps waiting for her to call. Elizabeth is bored but blows off a date with a guy named Alan. Douglas keeps repeating lines for a show. Eddie, the youngest, just got home from a crazy weekend. Elizabeth’s boyfriend Ronald lives in the city where he is a writer with no job. She pays for everything. She tells Ronald she feels like her life is in despair. She says she was happy when she was eighteen and after college her life has been sad. Ronald brings up suicide again so Elizabeth brings him to see Alan who is a doctor. Alan makes a joke and gives them sleeping pills to work off the nerves.
Mrs. Rimplegar had stock in a mine. She needed to make up the margin. She finds out she only has $1.65 in the bank. Mrs. Rimplegar had invested over $100,000 in the Three Cornered Moon mine. The family is all upset with their mother for her actions. Alan comes over and the boys attack him asking him about the stock market and telling him what has happened. Elizabeth suggests selling the house but it is the Depression and no one would be able to buy their large Brooklyn home. Alan suggests renting the rooms. Douglas does not like the idea but Alan tells him to get a reality check and face facts. Alan says he will rent a room. They all agree to get jobs.
Elizabeth finally gets a job after months of looking for one at a shoe factory. Eddie is seen by someone at a swim club and gets a job as a lifeguard. Douglas gets a bit part in a show. Kenneth keeps studying for his bar exam. Elizabeth is having a hard time with her boss. The boss wants her to go out with him or he will fire her.
The whole family is starving they barely have money for food. Elizabeth mentions the bread line. Mrs. Rimplegar mentions that it is the night Alan pays his rent. When Elizabeth gets the money from Alan they figure out what they can get to eat. The same night Kenneth’s girlfriend Kitty comes over. She wants him to take her to a party but he cannot he has to study. Kitty gets upset with Kenneth and pressures Ronald to take her out.
The next day Alan tells Ronald that a friend of his at a publishing office has a job opening for a reader. Ronald will not take the job because he has his novel to write. The boys are furious with him because the whole time they were supporting Ronald. Once Elizabeth realizes she lost her job she asks Ronald to go to work. He agrees to go for her. As Ronald is leaving to go to the publishing office Kitty picks him up and takes him away in a taxi with her.
Poor Eddie is so hungry and so tired he passed out. Alan tells him he has to stop working at night so he can sleep. Ronald comes back and announces that he did not go the interview Alan had set up for him. He tells them an idea for his book came to him and he knew he couldn’t have a desk job. Elizabeth freaks out on him.
Kenneth took his bar exam and his will be mentioned in the newspaper if he passed. At first Kenneth thinks he did not pass because he could not find his name. Alan figures Kenneth was looking in the Manhattan section and finds his name in the Brooklyn section. The family is very happy mostly because they can finally eat if Kenneth can get a client.
Elizabeth tells Ronald that she does not love him anymore. After Ronald leaves Alan confesses that he took a room in their house just so he could be near her. They decide to get married.
Claudette Colbert was wonderful… but then again that begs the question when was she ever not wonderful in her films. I like that her character had to become this hardened tough woman in order to support her family but she still stayed the same and did not give into her boss she stood up for morals. I connected with Elizabeth because she has three younger brothers and felt she had to take care of them and her mother. I have three younger brothers that I look out for (even though they are about a foot taller than me!!) and I help my mom and dad out as much as I can when I do not have school work or I do not have anything planned for a day. It is tough being an older sister to three pain in the ass brothers (they are 23, 20, and 14) but they make life interesting. I would do whatever I could like Elizabeth had to do in order to help her family.
Three Cornered Moon was originally a stage show on Broadway. There are certain scenes where you could tell that the story was meant for the stage. Paramount I feel did a good job with making the stage story into a film story. I can see how this could make people of the Depression laugh and put a smile on their faces. The characters persevered and did what they could to survive. They pretty much lived by “It’s always darkest before the dawn” and that is exactly what I live by and what everybody should live by. No matter how bad things are they get better over time. Three Cornered Moon was a film made in the 1930s for 1930s audiences. It can be viewed by viewers from today and be made for them since America and the world are going through a new depression. Three Cornered Moon has a timeless message. I highly recommend seeing this film is TCM airs it again. It will live you feeling a bit better about your life and put a smile on your face as it did for me.