Saturday, April 11, 2015

Slow, Comfortable Screwball

What with all the suspense and horror and music and action movie blogging, you may not realize that my favorite genre is black and white screwball. I had to branch out when I finished watching most of the classics, but they made a ton of these. For example, the Loretta Young twofer disk: The Doctor Takes a Wife/A Night to Remember (1940).

In Doctor, Loretta Young is the best selling author of Spinsters Ain't Spinach, which tells women that they don't need a man. She is stuck in a rural hotel and has to get back to the city. She imposes on medical lecturer Ray Milland, who has a car, but unbeknownst to either of them, someone has stuck a "Just Married" sign on the back. Of course, the famous (ex?) spinster is immediately recognized. For damage control, her agent convinces her that her next book should be about the joys of married life. Meanwhile, Milland discovers that his university prefers to promote married men, so it is in both of their interests to keep up the charade.

This movie's idea of medical science is hogwash - Milland is basically a phrenologist - but his friends and colleagues are all the kind of gnomish twinkly pedants that you get in movies like Ball of Fire. So even if we've got cutrate Cooper/Stanwyck or Tracy/Hepburn (the old war of the sexes), it's still fun.

A Night to Remember (not the Titanic one) gives us Loretta Young married to mystery author Brian Aherne. They are just moving into a basement apartment in Greenwich Village to soak up atmosphere for his next novel. The landlord, creepy Don Costello, isn't really ready for them - the front door doesn't latch, for instance, bu the movers are showing up that night, so they roll right in and then go out to a local joint for dinner, where they meet some more disturbing residents. Someone turns up dead, of course, and police Sidney Toller and Donald MacBride show up. There is a lot of nonsense involving speakeasies and a tortoise named Old Hickory.

These two movies aren't really quite screwball comedies - they don't have the whirlwind pace or overlapping dialog. Lorretta Young comes across as a bit languorous, even when tart and snappy - I think it's just who she is. The movies also aren't exactly hilarious - more pleasant and fun. But if you like 40s comedy, go for it. You'll get two features for one disk rental!

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