Letâ€™s Live a Little, 1948, b&w. Richard Wallace (dir.), Hedy Lamarr, Robert Cummings, Anna Sten, Robert Shayne. 1:25 [1:24].
Robert (Bob) Cummings plays an overworked ad man (Duke Crawfordâ€”what a name!) whoâ€™s ex-fiancÃ©e is also his clientâ€”and wants him back, holding up the contract renewal to get him. Meanwhile, thereâ€™s a psychiatrist with a new book entitled Letâ€™s Live a Little and heâ€™s assigned to work on promoting it. He meets the psychiatrist, a beautiful woman, and heâ€™s having a bit of a nervous breakdown. Oh, the psychiatrist shares an office suite with her maybe-boyfriend, a surgeon (doesnâ€™t every shrink work next to a cutter?). Various light romantic-comedy stuff ensues, as does semi-psychiatric stuffâ€”people hearing bells and seeing the wrong people–with what is apparently a happy ending. Thereâ€™s a wonderful sequence early onâ€”Cummings is on his way to meet the doctor, hasnâ€™t had time to shave, so jumps into one of a fleet of cabs equipped with electric razors: An idea he created. He gets distracted and shaves off half his mustacheâ€”thus, not unreasonably, causing the office receptionist and doctor to assume heâ€™s a patient.
Cummings is great at this sort of role. Hedy Lamarr as the psychiatrist is first-rate (isnâ€™t she always?). Anna Sten as the ex-fiancÃ©e/cosmetics boss chews the scenery a little, and thatâ€™s probably appropriate for her role. Itâ€™s a decent little romantic-neurosis comedy. The printâ€™s a little choppy at times, and thereâ€™s a significant break in flow thatâ€™s either some missing minutes or pretty abrupt editing. One real oddity: In the opening credits, thereâ€™s a black shape superimposed on the lower right corner of the screen, pretty obviously added in post-production. Did the original production company bail, leaving this to â€œUnited California Productions Inc.,â€ which as far as I can tell never released another movie? The sound is marred by heavy white noise, unfortunately, the main reason I canâ€™t give this more than $1.00.
Lady of Burlesque, 1943, b&w. William A. Wellman (dir.), Barbara Stanwyck, Michael Oâ€™Shea, Iris Adrian, Charles Dingle, J. Edward Bromberg, Frank Conroy, Pinky Lee. 1:31 [1:27].
This is a mystery with comedy and musical numbers, based on The G-string Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee. Itâ€™s a charmer, making burlesque (clean burlesque in this caseâ€”comedy, music and dancing) neither glamorous nor too seedy (just seedy enough). Along with various personal and professional jealousies that arise (and which dominate the picture), we get the mystery itselfâ€”and itâ€™s not as much a murder mystery as it might seem, although there are a couple of murders, both involving G-strings. (Thereâ€™s also a great song, â€œTake it off the E string, play it on the G string.â€) Itâ€™s distinctly a who-dun-it: Whoâ€™s trying to shut down the showâ€”or the theatreâ€”and why?
Well written and well acted. I have to downgrade it a little for the print quality: There are gaps at times, which is always disconcerting. Still, itâ€™s an enjoyable, well made picture. $1.25.
Love Affair, 1939, b&w. Leo McCarey (dir.), Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Maria Ouspenskaya. 1:27.
A classicâ€”not exactly a romantic comedy, since thereâ€™s very little comedy, but a great romantic flick. He (Charles Boyer) is an engaged French playboy. She (Irene Dunne) is an American with a boyfriend. They meet on an ocean liner, share dinner, try to avoid making a scene. Thereâ€™s a great sequence at his grandmotherâ€™s placeâ€”and Maria Ouspenskaya is magnificent in the role. At the end of the cruise, in New York, she proposes that, if it makes sense for both of them, theyâ€™ll meet in on July 1 at the top of the Empire State Building and take it from there. Complications ensueâ€”fairly serious complications. Thereâ€™s a happy endingâ€¦of sorts. This oneâ€™s the original. It was remade twice, once by the same director as An Affair to Remember (and sleepless people can think of at least one more picture inspired by it).
Great stars, great acting, (Dunne and Ouspenskaya were both up for Oscars, as was the picture), well written (another nomination), well made. This version has two flaws (in addition to the usual VHS-quality print): the soundtrackâ€™s a little damaged at points, and there are some fade-to-black breaks that make no sense thematically but might be well timed for advertisements. Even so, Iâ€™ll give it $1.75.
Letter of Introduction, 1938, b&w. John M. Stahl (dir.), Adolphe Menjoy, Adrea Leeds, George Murphy, Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd (in a bit part), Ann Sheridan, Eve Arden. 1:44 [1:29].
An unusual movie in several respects. Itâ€™s a dramaâ€”but with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, as well as Eve Arden. Itâ€™s romanticâ€”but in an odd way. Adolphe Menjou plays an oft-divorced actor whoâ€™s been away from the stage for years. Kay (Andrea Leeds) shows up with a letter of introductionâ€”from her mother, letting Menjou know that sheâ€™s his daughter. (The sleeve gets it wrong: He didnâ€™t â€œsever his relationshipâ€ with herâ€”he never knew she existed.) As he tries to make things rightâ€”but without simply announcing that sheâ€™s his daughterâ€”various complications ensue. What more to say?
Well played, but the printâ€™s dirty, there must be some significant gaps and the soundâ€™s not all that good. For this copy, no more than $1.25.