Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Turnabout [1940]

US movie (1940). United Artists/Hal Roach. Pr Roach. Dir Roach. Spfx Roy Seawright. Screenplay Berne Giler, John McClain, Mickell Novak. Based on Turnabout (1931) by Thorne Smith. Starring William Gargan (Joel Clare), John Hubbard (Tim Willows), Carole Landis (Sally Willows), Donald Meek (Henry), George Renavent (Mr Ram), Verree Teasdale (Laura Bannister). 83 mins. B/w.

In this first cinematic excursion into Identity Exchange, ex-showgirl Sally and her livewire advertising-executive husband Tim fantasize together about how much fun each would have in the other's role. Exotic Statue Mr Ram overhears and, announcing this is the first time he has ever known the argumentative couple to agree on anything, grants their Wish. Swapping bodies (although not voices – laryngitis is blamed), they proceed to make a hash of each other's duties. Together the couple beg Mr Ram to be exchanged back, and he obliges.

Considered pretty daring in its time because of its recognition that the sexes were physically different (although the most obvious differences are ignored), T grates today. Hubbard's portrayal of Sally/Tim is simperingly patronizing; Landis's body-language as Tim/Sally is much better achieved, but the script's message seems to be that she is a more competent woman when inhabited by a man. The lip-sync of the dubbed voices is not always very good. The movie remains watchable for its host of lesser roles, with Teasdale and Meek outstanding, and for some inspired clowning. [JG]

see also: Turnabout (1979).

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.