Crispin Scrope, middle-aged bachelor, has inherited vast, decrepit
Mellingham Hall (not the same one as in Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin). He
runs it as a guest house and he hasn't enough money to pay the repair
bills. His butler is really a broker's man. His younger brother Willoughby
is a prosperous London solicitor, from whom Crispin has to borrow.
Willoughby passes on to Crispin some rich Americans as double-paying
guests: Homer Pyle, corporation lawyer and (slightly) a poet: Barney
Clayborne, Homer's sister, widow, a sort of Aunt Dahlia and, actually or
seemingly, a shoplifter/kleptomaniac.
Willoughby is trustee for young Jerry West, but refuses him his money if he
intends to marry gold-digging and imperious Vera Upshaw, daughter of Dame
Flora Faye, actress. Jerry, on jury-duty, falls in love with Jane
Hunnicutt, air-hostess, also on jury-duty. She hears from Willoughby
Crispin that she is inheriting one or two million dollars from someone she
was kind to in a plane. So Jerry can't now ask her to marry him - he has
scruples about seeming to be a fortune-hunter.
Willoughby has just bought a Gainsborough miniature. It disappears from his
office and the fingers of suspicion point to Barney. Several people, for
rewards, search her bedroom at the hall for the picture. Vera Upshaw,
thinking that Homer Pyle is going to propose to her (she is a writer),
ditches Jerry. Then she hears that Jerry has got his money and she tries to
switch back. But Jane's legacy doesn't materialize, so Jerry can marry
Jane. And rich Barney will marry Crispin Scrope and take over die
management of Mellingham Hall. Willoughby warns Homer against Vera Upshaw
and Vera remains single and discomfited while all the others rejoice in
happy endings. (The Gainsborough turns up, and it wasn't Barney who took
Plotting and narrative are rather lacklustre. But there's some excellent
dialogue, very crisp for an eighty-nine-year-old. And there is a good
situation moment when the broker's man/butler blackmails his master,
Crispin, JP, into agreeing to push the local cop into a stream while he is
dabbling his hot feet after the day's duty. In fact Crispin funks it, but
Barney does it for him.
One idea for making Barney disclose the Gainsborough, if she had it, was to
sound the fire alarm - the principle being that, in a fire, everybody grabs
the things most dear to him/her to escape with. Not new, but funny here.
Source: Richard Usborne. Plum Sauce. A P G Wodehouse Companion.