Sunday, December 04, 2005


This is a delightful little gem, directed by the great George Cukor and co-written by Charles Brackett (SUNSET BLVD., BALL OF FIRE), which has gone quite underrated and should be out on DVD along with most of the rest of the films of its star, Thelma Ritter. Here Ritter plays the marriage broker of the title, eking out a living in the Flatiron Building in New York City by attempting, without the help of today's computers, to match up desperate single people by inviting pairs who might hit it off to sedate Sunday afternoon tea parties at her home. The folks who come to Ritter tend to be homely and lonely, and though the matchmaking is seen humorously, the people themselves are treated sympathetically. The lonely singles include the tall, gawky Nancy Kulp (10 years before she became Miss Hathaway on "The Beverly Hillbillies"), Frank Fontaine doing a slow-witted character very much like his drunken Crazy Guggenheim on "The Jackie Gleaon Show," and Zero Mostel. One subplot involves a woman (Helen Ford) who stole Ritter's husband from her years ago. Now that he's died, she's rich but lonely, she comes to Ritter for help, and they strike up an unlikely alliance. The focus of the plot, however, is on the model of the title (Jeanne Crain) who happens upon Ritter by accident; she's getting out of a relationship with a married man and Ritter, out of the goodness of her heart, tries surreptitiously to hook her up with doctor Scott Brady, who has just stood up the bride with whom Ritter fixed him up. Things go well for a while, but when Crain finds out what's been happening, she resents Ritter's meddling and tells her off, which leads Ritter to question her entire enterprise. There is a happy ending which involves Crain herself becoming a matchmaker for Ritter, but much of the film has a subtle tinge of sadness which makes it stand out from the typical romantic comedy of the era. Ritter is excellent, as she always is, and this is one of the few films in which she has the central role rather than a juicy supporting part. Brady and Crain are attractive and fine in their roles; Brady especially is just quirky enough to be interesting. There are choice bits from character actors Jay C. Flippen and Dennie Moore. This is well worth poring over the schedule of Fox Movie Channel to catch. [FMC]

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