Saturday, February 02, 2002


Both of these are examples of movies that might have been better with bigger budgets or a little more care taken in the writing or acting. RICH MAN, POOR GIRL starts out like a rip-off of YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU. Robert Young is the rich businessman in love with his secretary, Ruth Hussey. Hussey's family is poor and eccentric, and includes Lana Turner as her jitterbugging sister and Lew Ayers as a politically inclined brother who can't hold a job. Guy Kibbee is good as always as the father. Young gets to know the family and, in a departure from YOU CAN'T, he becomes the eccentric one, threatening to give away all of his money, leading the family to help to commit him. Of course, a happy ending is in store. It's short (under 75 minutes), and like a lot of B-movies, feels rushed--the various plot threads get tied up too quickly or just get ignored. Young and Hussey aren't quite up to carrying the movie, but luckily the supporting cast is good, especially Ayers, doing a variation on his HOLIDAY role but more hyper and mostly sober.

The main point of interest in CURTAIN CALL is that it was scripted by Dalton Trumbo, later famous for being one of the blacklisted writers of the McCarthy era. The plot is similar to the one Mel Brooks later used for THE PRODUCERS: the producer and director of a Broadway show buy a really bad play in order to make a flop to hurt the career of their tempermental star who is about to sign a contract with a rival producer. The material seemed sound, but the acting was mediocre all around. Even though I'm not the kind of movie fan who worships stars, this movie, with virtually no star power at all, suffers because of that. Alan Mowbray and Donald MacBride are the scheming pair--they're OK, but they're both a bit old for the parts and rather listless. I can imagine Robert Taylor or Dennis Morgan or Wayne Morris doing better jobs. Helen Vinson is the star and she's pretty good. Barbara Read plays the playwright, a naive young Midwest girl who thinks she's written a masterpiece. People keep telling her how bad the play is, but the light bulb never comes on. You just want to throttle her, though I'm not sure that's because of how the part was written or how it was played. Frank Faylen, the taxi driver in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, has a small but fun part as a PR guy named Spike.

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