50 Movie Comedy Kings, Disc 6

The Groom Wore Spurs, 1951, b&w. Richard Whorf (dir.), Ginger Rogers, Jack Carson, Joan Davis, Stanley Ridges, John Litel, James Brown, Victor Sen Yung. 1:20.

Romantic comedy with a plot line that may seem preposterous, but maybe not. A beautiful and all-business young female attorney shows up at a doorway, summoned to meet with an actor who stars in singing-cowboy films (but neither does his own riding nor his own singing)—and the first thing she sees is his awful fast-draw performance. But she likes him, and agrees to take on the unusual case: He lost $60,000 to a gambler in Vegas and doesn’t either want to pay the full amount or have the gambler’s friends-with-guns show up.

Next thing we know, she’s on his private plane to Vegas. They meet the gambler, but he has other problems and postpones a meet until 2 a.m. Now the two are in a convertible stepping out to view Hoover Dam, there’s some awkward/cute conversation, and next thing we know the two are married. And, as it turns out, the gambler was helped out by the attorney’s father, and writes off the 60 big ones as a wedding present.

She concludes she’s been had—in addition to mostly being a phony on screen, the actor’s clearly a ladies’ man. But she clearly still has Feelings. Lots more comedy, much of it pretty good, although there’s also a murder as part of the plot. If you accept the premise that two rational adults could meet and become engaged or married on the first date, the rest is semi-plausible. As for that premise…well, it’s absurd, of course, except that I’ve now been married for more than 33.5 years to a woman who I proposed to on our first date.

Ginger Rogers is Ginger Rogers: Lovely, amusing, and does a great job in any role. The rest of the cast is also excellent, part of the reason this lightweight film gets a solid $1.50.

Heading for Heaven, 1947, b&w. Lewis D. Collins (dir.), Stuart Erwin, Glenda Farrell, Russ Vincent, Irene Ryan, Milburn Stone. 1:05 [1:11]

The comedy setup here is common enough: Guy gets a physical exam, overhears the doctor discussing someone else’s case, assumes he’s dying when he’s actually healthy. In this case, the background is that a small-town realtor has held on to 100 acres east of town, where his father and grandfather both assumed the town would grow, turning down offers to make it an amusement park or a cemetery or whatever…while the town continues to grow west.

After the local banker says the town would like to buy the land for a town dump and gets turned down, two guys from an airline show up wanting to buy it for an airport—and, when he won’t take a pretty good price, suggest they might instead buy an adjacent 60-acre plot (which, as they note later, wouldn’t work because the adjacent land is overrun by power lines). The realtor buys the adjacent land—and then finds out he’s dying. Meanwhile, the banker and a swami who’s been doing séances for his wife and the local ladies wants to swindle him out of most of the airline’s money, so concocts a phony telegram saying the airline’s no longer interested.

That’s just the first part of a fast-moving plot that involves assumed suicide, hobos, applejack and an unusual séance. All turns out well. And it’s actually fairly amusing, although certainly lightweight. If you’re in the mood, it’s worth $1.25.

His Private Secretary, 1933, b&w. Phil Whitman (dir.), Evalyn Knapp, John Wayne, Reginald Barlow, Alec B. Francis. 1:00.

Previously reviewed as part of 50 Movie Hollywood Legends. What I said then:

A young John Wayne plays the playboy son of a millionaire businessman. The father demands the son take over as collection agent. He goes to a nearby small town to collect a debt, in the process picking up (and offending) a beautiful young girl—who turns out to be the daughter of the near-deaf minister he’s supposed to collect the debt from. He winds up forgiving the debt and getting fired for his trouble.

After various shenanigans and his continued stalking attempts to get on the right side of the girl, he succeeds and marries her—but his father assumes she’s a gold-digger and tells him to get rid of her. Somehow, she winds up becoming her father’s new private secretary—the best he’s ever had—but then leaves town because she thinks the playboy’s still a player. Everything works out in the end: This is, after all, a romantic comedy, if a surprisingly short one. Nothing spectacular, but not bad. I’ll give it $1.25.

I’m From Arkansas, 1944, b&w. Lew Landers (dir.), Slim Summerville, El Brendel, Iris Adrian, Bruce Bennett, Maude Eburne, Cliff Nazarro. 1:10 [1:07]

The sleeve plot description is almost entirely wrong, except for the key “plot” point in this set of songs thinly disguised as a comedy: It all starts with Esmerelda, a sow in Pitchfork, Arkansas who gives birth to 18 piglets. And ends with Pitchfork (now Pitchfork Springs) becoming a state spa resort for its healing springs—foiling the designs of a Pork Magnate to turn it into the world’s biggest pig farm.

In the middle, we have a Western radio big band, all of whom go back to Pitchfork for their summer break—and a female troupe of entertainers (singers & dancers) whose manager thinks the Sow Sensation should make Pitchfork a great place to play and takes them there, without bothering to find out whether Pitchfork even has a theater or nightclub (which it doesn’t). Naturally, the two groups wind up in the same room & board place, owned by the sow’s widowed owner, and the Western band plays a little joke on the female entertainers (who respond to a whole bunch of stereotypical hillbilly behavior by assuming they’re dealing with hillbillies) by turning into extreme hillbillies. Who also happen to be professional-quality musicians.

All of which is probably more discussion than the “plot” deserves. There are ten songs, all well done, in a 67-minute flick; the rest of the movie comes off as a semi-amusing wrapper for the songs. I would have been offended by the stereotyping (pretty extreme in some cases), except that the band playing with it defuses it somewhat. Oh: The daughter of the sow-owner/hotelier is the damnedest yodeler I have ever heard, and the female troupe’s manager does some great doubletalk routines. Amusing, and probably worth $1.25.

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