“I just couldn’t act in a bad picture,” the actress Jean Arthur once said, and, after she had gotten past the rocky shoals of the silent era she rarely did. She acted in some movies that probably would have been bad without her, but she brought so much to them that their entertainment value – and sometimes a good deal more – was assured.
Born in 1900 (though she hid behind a phony birthdate for years), she was good more experienced than the average ingenue when she finally broke through in the mid-’30s. Arthur did alright for a performer plagued with stage fright her entire career. Her camera-reluctance gives her a little extra added edge, and it really works.
Here is Jean Arthur the impossibly charming romantic comedian, the emotionally resonant everywoman, the oddball whose charm wins out. Every little crack of voice, every self-conscious hair-flip helps to tell a story that we can still identify with acutely all these years later.