Gary Cooper in the first half of the Forties made four films for director Sam Wood. Three of them were big budget items, Pride of the Yankees, For Whom The Bells Toll, and Saratoga Trunk. The fourth is a pleasant and innocuous little comedy called Casanova Brown.
The film was adapted by Floyd Dell who wrote the novel and play it was based on called Accidental Father. It had previously been filmed twice by Warner Brothers and once by the French cinema. It ran on Broadway in the 1929 season and probably got closed with the stock market crash.
All the names were changed in this adaption, but the plot line remained essentially the same. Gary Cooper is about to get married to Anita Louise when he gets a cryptic note from Teresa Wright. He confides in Anita's father, Frank Morgan who is a fellow colleague at the college where Cooper is an English professor. Morgan also seems to function more as a western sidekick for Cooper than a father of the bride for Louise.
Cooper's little secret is that he was ever so briefly married to Teresa Wright. Her cryptic note says he should go to a maternity hospital in Chicago and see a certain doctor there. Cooper of course arrives at some logical conclusions.
Teresa of course has an agenda of her own and I can't say too much more as both women fight for Cooper. Of course with that baby, Ms. Wright definitely has the upper hand.
Casanova Brown was the second of two films Cooper and Wright did together, the first being the highly acclaimed Pride of the Yankees. This film isn't anything like the epic story of Lou Gehrig, but it is definitely a pleasant enough diversion.
It's an opportunity to see Frank Morgan in a rare appearance outside the MGM studio. He has some very good moments in Casanova Brown as Cooper's confidante.
However Casanova Brown has one claim to immortality. There is a flashback sequence where Cooper is telling Morgan about the relationship with Wright. After they've eloped Wright brings Cooper to meet her parents who are played by Edmond Breon and Patricia Collinge. Collinge is a believer in astrology and no smoking. Cooper in an effort to hide the fact he smoked a cigarette in their house, manages to burn their house down. It is one of the most hilarious things ever put on film.
The rest of the film is good and entertaining, but it doesn't match up to that scene. See Casanova Brown for that alone.