Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The funniest movie I'd never heard of

Robert Osbourne said it in the introduction, so it must be true: this is a great screwball comedy, written by Billy Wilder, that often gets overlooked. Well, as it turns out, I agree with him. I'd taped it last week and got to watch it this afternoon. I wasn't familiar with the movie at all before, but I'm sure glad I am now.

I'll crib a plot summary from IMDB: Showgirl Eve [Claudette Colbert], stranded in Paris without a sou, befriends taxi driver Tibor Czerny [Don Ameche], then gives him the slip to crash a party. There she meets Helene Flammarion [Mary Astor] and her gigolo Picot, who's attracted to Eve. Helene's scheming husband Georges [John Barrymore] enlists Eve's aid in taking Picot away from his wife. It works well... at first. Meanwhile, lovestruck Tibor searches for Eve. But then he learns she's calling herself Baroness Czerny!

You could say this is a typical 30's "mistaken identity" comedy, and you'd be mostly right. I have to say, though, some of the plot twists were rather clever. Just when you think Claudette Colbert is going to be found out, she or John Barrymore come up with some spur of the moment story to save their skins. Quite creative stories, too. Barrymore is a delight, especially in the scene where he's portraying Eve's imaginary daughter Francie on the phone: "Dada? Is that you?" If you see it on the TCM schedule again, check it out (or you can, as Robert helpfully pointed out, buy it on DVD).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Inside jokes are hilarious

Today I rewatched an old favorite, "It's a Great Feeling," with Jack Carson, Doris Day, and Dennis Morgan. I love this film in part because it's one huge inside joke; Doris Day is a young girl from Gurkey's Corners, Wisconsin who's in Hollywood to become a movie star, and she's discovered by Morgan and Carson, who play themselves. As do a host of other Warner Bros. stars, such as Edward G. Robinson, Joan Crawford (whose scene I just adore, it's so funny), Gary Cooper ("Yep"), Sydney Greenstreet, Danny Kaye, Patricia Neal, Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman (and daughter Maureen Reagan), and directors Michael Curtiz (who famously said, "Bring on the empty horses!" the title of David Niven's autobiography), King Vidor, and Raoul Walsh. The running joke is that no one at Warners' wants to work with Jack Carson because he's "such a ham." Which he sometimes was, but I love him for it. He was so great in "Mildred Pierce." I love his line, "Oh, boy, I'm so smart it's a disease."

Doris Day goes through various adventures trying (with help from Jack and Dennis) to win the attention of studio head Arthur Trent. In the end (and I have to spoil the ending because it is so damn cute) she winds up going home to Wisconsin to marry her fiance, Jeffrey Bushdinkle, played in a wee little cameo by...Errol Flynn. I fall out laughing every time I see that. The movie overall is really funny, and I highly recommend it, if you should happen to come across it on TCM.