Saturday, April 28, 2007

PHFFFT (1954)

The odd title of this film is really the only noteworthy thing about it. It's largely an updated version of THE AWFUL TRUTH (with little of that movie's zany wit and charm) with a dash of THE ODD COUPLE thrown in. A (very young) Jack Lemmon plays a lawyer and Judy Holliday is his wife, the creator of a successful radio and TV soap opera. One evening, while he's trying to read a mystery novel and she's pacing the floor restlessly, they simultaneously realize that they're bored with each other and decide to divorce. Lemmon moves in with his buddy Jack Carson, who thinks he should immediately get back in the dating game and tries to show him some of the ropes, including setting him up with the sexy Kim Novak (doing her best Marilyn Monroe imitation). Holliday is approached by an actor from her soap opera for what she thinks is a date but is instead a gripe session about his character. She and Lemmon wind up taking dancing lessons at the same Arthur Murray studio, and more or less accidentally end up doing a mambo together at a night club, but just when it looks like the spark has returned, they have a spat while he's doing her taxes. In the end, Carson, sure that Lemmon and Novak are hitting it off, puts the moves on Holliday, which ensures that Lemmon will show up to get rid of Carson and patch things up permanently with Holliday. Holliday is fine, but Lemmon and Novak are sexy and energetic and work up quite a bit of chemistry, and honestly I was sort of hoping that they would wind up together--though that would break all the rules of the screwball "comedy of remarriage" genre to which this film belongs. There is a cute bit involving a statue with glowing electric eyes that Carson puts in his apartment window as a "Don't come a-knockin'" signal. At only 90 minutes, this still feels a bit too long; individual scenes work well (the mambo scene, Lemmon's dates with Novak, a bit with a French teacher), but it just doesn't quite come together. [TCM]

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