Sunday, February 08, 2004

H.M. PULHAM, ESQ. (1941)

This is one of those movies in which a character looks back on his life from some high or low point and re-assess everything. The first 45 minutes or so are quite enjoyable, but as it focuses in on one story, it loses some of its charm. Robert Young is Pulham, a young man of means who tries to make his own way in life, but gets sucked back into the family circle. His best friend, Van Heflin, helps keep him grounded. He is supposed to marry Ruth Hussey, a rich but bland girl, but he falls for Hedy Lamarr, a co-worker at his advertising agency. His father (Charles Coburn) disapproves of his son's decisions; after Coburn dies, Young returns to his old life and settles down with Hussey. Most of the film is a flashback occasioned by a return visit from Lamarr; Young realizes he has always done what was expected of him by others, but never done what he wants. He is tempted to have an affair with Lamarr, but resists the temptation and ultimately seems to make his peace with Hussey and his situation. Ho-hum. [TCM]


The very funny 1982 comedy VICTOR/VICTORIA was based on a German film from 1933, but in between, there was this British version with the same plot, with less emphasis on gay and camp elements. British music hall star Jessie Matthews is Elizabeth, a young woman hoping to make it big in show biz. She meets up with Victor (Sonnie Hale), a female impersonator with a yearning to do Shakespeare. When he loses his voice one night, Elizabeth goes on as Victoria and is a big success. A princess (Anna Lee) and her fiance (Griffith Jones) get entangled in their affairs. Unlike in the Blake Edwards version, there is some real (albeit brief) sexual tension when Jones thinks that Matthews is really a man--I never felt any real tension between James Garner and Julie Andrews. The overall plot structure is the same as the in the 80's film. I haven't seen the original, VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA, so I can't compare that one. This version has some wonderful Busby Berkeleyesque musical numbers. Overall, an enjoyable diversion. Lee was Sister Margretta in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and Jones was the father of Gemma Jones, the mother in BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY. [VHS]

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