Hal Roach (U.S., 1940)
Introduced by Robert Gitt
Turnabout will enlighten anyone who thinks that gender identity, same-sex attraction, and homophobia were off limits as subject matter in American movies before the general loosening of cultural taboos that followed World War II. In this 1940 screwball comedy from veteran producer/director Hal Roach, sophisticated New Yorkers Tim and Sally Willows (John Hubbard and Carole Landis) bicker constantly because each believes the other leads a more satisfying life, until one night a Hindu idol switches their personalities, voices, and mannerisms. The next morning, chaos ensues when ultra-feminine Sally swishes into her husband's office in Tim's clothes and body, while Tim as Sally clumps around their apartment making household repairs. By nightfall, Tim and Sally are begging the idol to return them to their rightful sex, but he has one more surprise in store for them. When Turnabout was released, Variety warned that "audiences in the hinterlands and family houses might take offense" at Hubbard's assumed feminine mannerisms. Today's audiences can revel in the delightful silliness, enhanced by the performances of such skilled comedians as Adolphe Menjou, Donald Meek, and Franklin Pangborn. This program is a preview of UCLA Film & Television Archive's 13th biennial Festival of Preservation that will take place in Los Angeles July 20 through August 19. UCLA Preservation Officer Robert Gitt will introduce Turnabout, which will be shown in a new 35mm print produced from the original nitrate picture and track negatives donated to UCLA by Hallmark Entertainment. Financial support was provided by the Film Foundation.
• Written by Berne Giler, Rian James, Mickell Novak. Photographed by Norbert Brodine. With Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis, John Hubbard, William Gargan. (83 mins)