Monday, March 20, 2006


Though this film is available on VHS because it stars Lucille Ball, the reason to watch this second-feature romantic comedy is her co-star, James Ellison, a B-movie leading man, known mostly for his work in westerns. The two play a couple (an accountant and a housewife) stuck in a rut after a few years of marriage--in an amusing opening, we see their high school yearbook entries; his major is accounting, hers is home economics, and neither one lists any outside interests. Their rut is only heightened by her mother, Emma Dunn, a nagging busybody in-law who lives with them in their small apartment. One day, Ellison is drafted by his co-workers to meet and entertain the visiting big boss, an old fuddy-duddy whom no one likes, but instead the old codger's son (Robert Coote), a lively playboy type, shows up and Ellison finds himself drawn into a whirl of late-night "business" parties. This irritates Ball who, egged on by Dunn, throws him out. Coote feels responsible for Ellison's problems and tries to intercede; he gets Ball to come to a costume party dressed as a South American beauty named Mercedes, hoping the two will find a new spark meeting that way, but the plan backfires when the real Mercedes actually shows up at the party. A woman who's in on the plan tells Ellison that the masked Latina is his wife in disguise, but as he's flirting with her, his disguised wife walks in and a comedy of errors results. Of course, the two reconcile at the end (in a plot development out of the Lunt/Fontanne classic THE GUARDSMAN), with Ellison asserting himself by tossing his mother-in-law out. Ball is OK in her dual role, and in a situation that is similar to many she would encounter in "I Love Lucy," but she's a little low-energy for the role, especially during the film's later hi-jinks. Dunn is fun as the meddling bitch mother, and the handsome and charming Ellison does a very nice job with the lead; he's number-crunchingly bland in the beginning, but undergoes a believable change under Coote's influence. I know Ellison mostly as the bad brother in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE but now he's on my radar and I'll be looking for him in other films. One final note: when Ellison is decked out in a matador outfit at the party, he actually looks a bit like Desi Arnaz! [TCM]

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