For years I have been teased by promotional information claiming that the short Just Around the Corner was an extra on the DVD release of The Little Giant (1933). Not on my copy!
So a few times per year I’ll search for the title on YouTube and lo and behold I was rewarded at last! I don’t know the status of the title, but be sure to view it as soon as possible just in case it gets yanked off the site (It is also embedded at bottom of this post).
Ever since the Warner Archive released the Bobby Jones Golf Shorts this 1933 short has become my most sought-after Warren William film. Why, you ask? Roll credits:
By the way, “Forty Second Street” plays over those faces until we reach Ruth Donnelly and the tune changes to “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me.”
The IMDb lists the runtime for this short at 18 minutes, but the copy of Just Around the Corner that I viewed on YouTube ran just a tick or two over 13 minutes.
The first few minutes of Just Around the Corner takes place in an office where Warren William plays the boss, Mr. Sears. Prior to his arrival Warren’s employees prepare us for another Kurt Anderson, and while Mr. Sears might be that S.O.B. between nine and five, that is not the Sears who we spend most of this sliver of time with.
Before Warren’s entrance a couple of his employees, Jerry (Dick Powell) and Tim (Preston Foster), discuss a promotion that appears all but preordained for co-worker Graham (Walter Miller). The chatter stops the moment the boys realize that Mr. Sears has entered. Sears picked up on the end of their conversation and is curious about the trout pond Jerry mentioned having in his backyard. On his way into the office Sears thanks Graham for having him over to dinner the night before. No sooner does Sears close his office door than does he buzz Jerry into his office to discuss the trout pond in greater detail.
That’s it for the office. Warren is already fishing at Dick Powell’s place by the next scene.
Preston Foster is done, logging even less time here than he had in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). Joan Blondell is around even less than that as Graham’s wife. All she gets to do is show a little skin while taking a phone call from bed from her husband, who’s excited to tell her how well her dinner for the boss went over the night before.
Once we’re at Jerry’s place we meet the other wives. Ruth Donnelly plays Warren’s wife and Bette Davis is Ginger, Jerry’s wife. We leave Warren and Dick to talk fishing outside while in the kitchen General Electric’s part in all of this soon becomes very apparent.
Bette Davis pitches G.E.’s latest coffee maker, dishwasher, oven, refrigerator, washer and dryer and even doorbell!
“Oh, what a lovely clock,” Donnelly’s Mrs. Sears says when a chime sounds moments after Ginger winds up a lengthy list of dishwasher features.
“Oh no, that’s the doorbell. That’s General Electric too,” Ginger says, adding something about its “lovely tone.” You can imagine how enthusiastic Miss Davis is over all of this.
After dinner Mrs. Sears marvels over Ginger’s hands to her husband. “Can you believe they do the entire work of a house?” she says.
“They don’t do the work, they direct the work,” says Stepford Bette.
Warren’s Mr. Sears is impressed by the efficiency of it all: “You people have actually mastered the art of living. A few years ago it would have cost three times your income to maintain this establishment.”
Jerry explains the economy of their G.E. appliances: “We figure we save five cents a meal by preserving the food we used to have to throw away. That’s four dollars and a half a month.”
Bette’s Ginger had earlier worked some speedy arithmetic of her own while loading her dishwasher: “If I had to wash dishes three times a day for a year, let’s see, it would take me, uh, forty eight-hour working days to accomplish it.”
I’ll take her word for it.
Needless to say Mr. Sears is severely impressed by the economy and efficiency of Jerry’s home. He decides the way Jerry runs a household may very well reflect the way he would run a business. Poor Graham, the fellow back at the office, or as I like to call him Mr. Blondell, is not going to be very happy come Monday morning.
This is paid programming, 1933 style. Rather than one celebrity pitchman we are rewarded with several, Warren, Dick Powell, Bette Davis and Ruth Donnelly doing the majority of that work.
Davis actually spends more time with her back to us, running appliances, than she does facing us, though she has the lion’s share of the lines while explaining all of G.E.’s wonders to Donnelly. Powell spends his time glowing over G.E. to Warren, who gets off the best line of the entire short when he tells Powell’s Jerry, “Great name, General Electric. I see you bought a name, not a product.”
Just Around the Corner winds up with its inevitable happy ending—this thing is, after all, an ad—before concluding with a humorous scene that finds Donnelly scolding Warren for a late night raid on Jerry and Ginger’s refrigerator. Our stars are barely visible at this finish as the entire scene is lit by the inside of the G.E. fridge.
It was worth the hunt just to hear Warren get off a few good lines and to wonder what Bette Davis must have really been thinking as she marveled over these products. Her most unintentionally hilarious moment comes when the dishwasher finishes its cycle and Donnelly offers to dry the dishes for her. Davis channels her later, hot-tempered characters when she snaps at Donnelly, “They do that for themselves,” with surely more ferocity than General Electric would have wished.
I have to hand it to the entire cast for at least (mostly) attempting enthusiasm. As this General Electric production was distributed by Warner Brothers, who held contracts on all of the players, the actors were probably not paid any extra for doing this. In fact, this is likely a case of do it or else.
As for its merits as a commercial Just Around the Corner is heavy-handed in its message but it surely gets it across to its Depression-ravaged audience: General Electric pays for itself. You’ll be better off with our products than without them. And you don’t even have to pay for anything up front.
Prosperity. It’s just around the corner for the General Electric customer.
But if money isn’t an issue, if you’re well-off but intimidated by all these newfangled devices, then Mrs. Sears thinks out loud for you: “You know, when we were first able to afford a servant, my greatest happiness is that I would have no more dishes to wash. You know I almost want to keep house for myself this new way. I think it should be fun”
Just Around the Corner is highly recommended for one-time viewing … let’s hope it still plays below:
Note: As noted in the comments section, Ray Faiola has uploaded a new and improved print of Just Around the Corner to YouTube in August 2016 (Thanks again, Ray!). The new video is now featured below: