Thursday, April 19, 2012


Paramount Pictures plans to make a movie of the stage hit Louisiana Purchase, but a studio lawyer is worried that the events of the satirical play are too close to life, so he dictates a letter (in song) to the studio advising them to make it absolutely clear that the characters bear no resemblance to any real people.  They do so by making the first production number a song sung by colorfully-dressed chorus girls, singing about the movie being fiction.  Victor Moore is a U.S. senator who arrives in New Orleans to investigate graft charges involving the owners of the Louisiana Purchasing Company.  The owners set up state politician Bob Hope to be the fall guy, but tell him his only chance is to get the straight-arrow Moore into a compromising position with a woman for blackmail purposes.  Hope enlists the help of Irene Bordoni, owner of an infamous "restaurant," and she talks the lovely Vera Zorina into entrapping Moore.  They get Moore drunk (telling him he's just drinking Mississippi River water) and take a picture of Zorina sitting on his lap.  The plan backfires when Zorina regrets her role and decides to say she’s engaged to Moore.  Next, Bordoni tries a similar scheme only to wind up actually getting engaged to Moore.  Finally, on the floor of the Statehouse, Hope pulls a three-day filibuster (in which, among other things, he reads all of Gone with the Wind) so Moore can't make his charges.  At the end of the filibuster, just as Hope collapses, Moore gets a telegram with proof about the real wrongdoers, and Hope is free to pair up with Zorina. 

This Irving Berlin musical was a hit on Broadway but most of the songs are gone here, leaving the mildly amusing political humor intact.  While Hope is the star, Moore has almost as much screen time.  His befuddled, slow-talking persona is an acquired taste, but his pairing with the sprightlier Hope makes for a nice mix of comic styles.  Hope is quite good here, about as fun as he is in his "Road" movies, and both Bordoni and Zorina are fine.  The lovely Dona Drake dances up a storm in a mid-movie Mardi Gras number.  There is nice support from Raymond Walburn, Frank Albertson, and Maxie Rosenbloom.  The material here is above-average for a Hope comedy, with some good, if obvious, jabs at politicians which are still relevant today.  I especially liked one of the politicians saying, about attacking Moore's morals, "The public loves a good crusade—it makes them think we’re looking out for their interests."  I also liked Hope saying he got permission from Jimmy Stewart for his Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style filibuster.  The best thing about this movie is its use of Technicolor; I have rarely seen a color movie of the classic era look so eye-poppingly good.  Even scenes set in average-looking offices look great, and the Mardi Gras parade, with its purples, gold, blues, and reds, is gorgeous.  I think it’s interesting that in the Production Code era, they got away with calling the restaurant/bordello owner Madame Bordelaise.  [TCM]

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