Thursday, February 05, 2009


My favorite movie eras are the 30's, 40's, and 60's. This movie is a perfect example of why I tend to shy away from 50's films (too much emphasis on bright color surfaces, too much artificiality, not enough risk-taking, and mediocre acting, with good actors often placed in roles that don't suit them) and yet I continue to sample them as I sometimes find subversive pleasures which were probably not part of the filmmakers' master plan. This is a musical remake of a 40's romantic comedy called TOM, DICK AND HARRY starring Ginger Rogers (which I have not seen). Jane Powell is a dreamy young working girl who still lives with her parents, loves romantic movies, and yearns for the good life with a rich husband—her first song, sung in her bedroom, reminds me a bit of Ann-Margret's "How Lovely to Be a Woman" in BYE BYE BIRDIE. Her unambitious, stable, steady, stick-in-the-mud boyfriend is realtor Tommy Noonan; at a nighttime beach party, he sets up lounge chairs for the two of them amongst the teeming masses of couples on the sand who are making out like crazy. She rather passively accepts his proposal of marriage, but the next day, on a crazy impulse, she jumps into the water off a ferry boat, hoping to be "saved" by the owner of a nearby yacht. Instead, it's boat repairman Cliff Robertson who picks her up. He's handsome, hunky, and down to earth, and they hit it off well, but the problem is that money is not his main concern in life. Still, she becomes engaged to him without mentioning Noonan. Later, she manages to meet the real yacht owner (Keith Andes) who seems to be the answer to her dreams, and gets engaged to him. Naturally, the three find out about each other and soon she has to choose the one most likely to make her happy.

The plot has promise, as does the gimmick that we see her whimsical (and musical) imaginings of what life would be like with each one. The production numbers are well executed with choreography by Gower Champion, but the songs themselves, despite some clever lyrics, are unmemorable. The pacing is absolutely leaden in the first half, though things do pick up a bit later. Powell is a problem: she's pretty and peppy, and sings and dances fine, but she was almost 30 and looks it, and the character seems like she should be quite a bit younger. Kaye Ballard is fun as her best friend, and Frank Cady (Sam Drucker on "Green Acres") and Una Merkel play Powell's parents. A cute dancer named Kelly Brown plays Ballard's boyfriend (in real life, Brown was the father of dancer Leslie Browne who was nominated for an Oscar for THE TURNING POINT). The movie's saving grace is how darn gay it seems. Noonan, passive if not quite an obvious sissy, exclaims, when Powell says yes to his proposal, "You've made me the happiest girl in the world!" One number (I think it's called "Balboa") is full of shirtless men in short swim trunks, showing lots more skin than the women do. A Mexican-themed dance features Andes and Brown acting a tad swishy, and when Robertson goes to Noonan's place of work to check out his competition, the scene plays out like a not-so-subtle gay pick-up. Without these little delights, I'm not sure I would have stayed with the film until the end. [TCM]

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