An underrated gem in the filmography of Douglas Sirk, Has Anybody Seen My Gal is a 1920s-set comedy that proves the director was adept at more than just tearjerkers. Read on to see what makes this film so special and why it is absolutely worth seeking out.
It was Rock Hudson and Douglas Sirk’s first film together
Although you might not have heard of Has Anybody Seen My Gal before, it is actually rather important because it was the first time Sirk worked with perhaps his most significant collaborator, the man he would share a nine-film partnership with, Rock Hudson.
Unlike other studios, Universal didn’t have many popular male actors under contract, so Sirk decided to develop his own. After seeing Hudson in the boxing picture Iron Man, Sirk recalled that the actor “wasn’t very much,” but there was something about him nonetheless and Hudson was very eager to learn from the filmmaker. Betty Abbott, a script supervisor who often worked with Sirk, said, “I think that Mr. Sirk found something that other people didn’t find in Rock, which was the intensity to not only become an actor but a fine actor.”
“He was like ol’ Dad to me, and I think I was like a son to him,” Hudson later said. While their third film, Magnificent Obsession (1954), would be the one that made Rock a bona fide star, it all started with Has Anybody Seen My Gal and the results are delightful.
You get to swoon over Rock Hudson
Okay, I’ll admit that this applies to all of Rock’s movies — and how could it not?
As Dan, the soda jerk who has the heart of Piper Laurie’s Millie, Hudson is adorable with a capital A. I’ve documented before how, um, overwhelming I find the actor’s beauty, but it also can’t be overstated just how good he was at playing romance. There is one moment in Has Anybody… where all he says is the word “hamburgers” in a hushed tone as he gazes into Laurie’s eyes and it sends me into a tailspin. I know it sounds stupid, but trust me: no one sells love (and lust) better than Rock Hudson.
You’re able to witness the charm of Charles Coburn
While Hudson steals my focus whenever he is onscreen, the true star here is Charles Coburn. Known for playing bullheaded businessmen and mischievous softies alike, one of Coburn’s specialties became characters who use chaos to play Cupid and bring together the stubborn leading man and lady, such as in Heaven Can Wait and his Oscar-winning turn in The More the Merrier (both 1943). Has Anybody Seen My Gal is another example, with the rascally Coburn playing an ailing millionaire who goes undercover to decide if he should leave his fortune to the family of his late lady love.
Besides making sure that wedding bells ring for Laurie and Hudson, though, Coburn delivers the best lines and the best faces as he grows close to Laurie’s family and helps them in various ways, becoming their very own cigar-smoking fairy godfather. With a gruff demeanor that belies an unexpected goofiness, Coburn is easily one of classic Hollywood’s most beloved character actors and this film makes it clear why as we witness him dancing the Charleston, sweetly comforting a heartbroken Laurie, learning how to be a soda jerk from Hudson, and blindly painting a picture with his fingers and trying to pass it off as surrealism.
The film is practically an unofficial musical
While firmly a family comedy, you might be surprised by how much this movie flirts with the musical genre — then again, it does share a title with a popular 20th-century song, despite the phrase having nothing to do with the plot. Has Anybody… has so much fun with its 1920s time period that it almost becomes a parody, and that includes its use of music. Phonographs, hand-cranked pianos, and ukulele-playing teenagers all make appearances, and many scenes have characters humming to themselves or singing along to records and bands that are playing in the background, such as when Laurie croons “Give Me a Little Kiss” to an oblivious Hudson or a bunch of high schoolers overtake a drugstore with their peppy rendition of the titular tune. Nothing ever really becomes a full-blown musical number, but these moments seem to exist to say that music and dancing were intrinsic to the ’20s lifestyle, and they end up adding to the film’s joyful, lighthearted nature.
It’s a Sirk film!
An obvious reason, but one that should still be stated. Although renowned for his ’50s melodramas, Sirk made all kinds of movies, including cute little comedies like Has Anybody… (I’m especially partial to 1949’s splendid Slightly French, starring Don Ameche and a stellar Dorothy Lamour.)
Like much of his work, Has Anybody… looks terrific, but in a quieter way than, say, the garish Written on the Wind (1956) or the shadowy Lured (1947). There are the signature Sirk touches: prominent mirrors and windows; elaborate sets; attention to nature with flowers in vases and falling leaves and snow; subtly fantastic cinematography; and, of course, heavenly Technicolor. From a Christmastime party awash in icy blues, white, and silver to the pops of green inside a predominantly brown drugstore to the bright ’20s costumes, Sirk always knew how to exploit color and make you think, “Whoa, why can’t real life look like that?”
Michaela Owens is thrilled to be the editor of A Place for Film, in addition to being IU Cinema’s Publications Editor. An IU graduate with a BA in Communication and Culture and an MA in Cinema and Media Studies, she never stops thinking about classic Hollywood, thanks to her mother’s introduction to it, and she likes to believe she is an expert on Katharine Hepburn and Esther Williams.