Monday, January 05, 2015


My Betty Grable problem: for me, she is absolutely unmemorable. I know who she is, I've seen a handful of her movies, I don't dislike her, but I can never remember anything about her or her movies. I don’t even think I could pick her out of a leggy pin-ups line-up. Her acting reputation is based on her musicals at Fox in the 40s, and those are mostly OK but bland and forgettable, recycling the same old "boy meets girl in an exotic location" plots (MOON OVER MIAMI, DOWN ARGENTINE WAY) without the stylish studio spark of MGM or much in the way of star chemistry like the RKO Astaire/Rogers movies.  The postwar Fox musicals had a different formula but were just as bland: stories of musical families, real and fictitious. Grable did her share of those and this is one of the first. In 1900, Myrtle McKinley (Grable) graduates from high school and goes to San Francisco to attend business school, or so her grandparents think; actually, she gets a job as a chorus girl at a vaudeville house and is discovered by star comic Frank Burt (Dan Dailey). She becomes part of his act and falls for him, but he, being rather unromantic, is a little stand-offish at first. Eventually they marry, and soon she has kids and retires from the act. The second half of the story, set several years later, focuses on their teenage daughter Iris (Mona Freeman) and her growing pains as she struggles to reconcile her feelings about her working-class entertainer parents with the upper-class students she gets to know at boarding school.

Grable and Daily work well together—this is the first of four movies they would make as a team—though without much of the charm or chemistry displayed by Astaire & Rogers. The first half is pleasant enough with some fun songs and period charm. But the last part in which the daughter takes center stage drags. Freeman is OK, but she's not charming or interesting enough that we care about her and what comes across as her petty teen angst melodrama. Sara Allgood is fine in a small part as Grable's grandmother; Lee Patrick gets a cute little dance bit to "Stumbling"; and during a sweet Christmas scene, novelty ventriloquist Senor Wences (who I remember from the Ed Sullivan show) appears. The movie is colorful with lovely costumes, but like most Betty Grable movies I’ve seen, it's mostly vanished from my experience already. [TCM/DVD]

No comments: