50 Movie Comedy Kings Disc 7

The Lady Says No, 1951, b&w. Frank Ross (dir.), Joan Caulfield, David Niven, James Robertson Justice, Lenore Lonergan, Frances Bavier. 1:20 [1:22]

The setup: An unmarried photographer for Life (Niven) is driving to Carmel to photograph a young woman who’s written a bestseller opposing romance—The Lady Says No. He’s towing a trailer containing his photo equipment. He stops for a comely young hitchhiker—who, as it happens, is married and brings along her soldier husband. She insists that they stop a little farther down the road, packing the car with another five or six soldiers and girlfriends. They all want to go to Monterey (where the action is)—but first, he has to make his Carmel stop.

When he does, he assumes the aunt is actually the author, not the beautiful young woman. After various nonsense, he tells her to show up the next day at the beach, and goes off to Monterey. Then, the aunt’s wandering husband shows up and…oh, well, there’s just too much plot to summarize. As you might expect, the photographer convinces the woman that romance isn’t such a terrible thing. It’s all light, including an interesting dream sequence. Not great, but amusing. I found it more than a little sexist, which reduces the overall score to $1.25.

Life With Father, 1947, color, Michael Curtiz (dir.), William Powell, Irene Dunne, Elizabeth Taylor, Zasu Pitts. 1:58.

Previously reviewed in Family Classics 50 Movie Pack: See Cites & Insights 5:4. What I said then, with price modified for changing expectations:

Charming period family comedy based on Clarence Day’s own writing about his father, wife, four sons, and complex household. Taylor—two years older than in National Velvet, and already a beauty—has a secondary but important part. Well acted. Good print with occasional flecks and, near the end, a vertical streak. $1.50, reduced for damage.

I haven’t watched this version at all. With less damage, I’d give it a full $2: It’s a fine comedy.

Lonely Wives, 1931, b&w. Russell Mack (dir.), Edward Everett Horton, Esther Ralston, Laura La Plante, Patsy Ruth Miller, Spencer Charters, Maude Eburne. 1:25.

This one’s a knockabout farce with a lawyer prone to “blooming” (infidelity) after 8 p.m., his wife gone to the mountains (but returning by surprise), his mother-in-law trying to keep him from blooming, a new secretary with quite a walk…and a vaudeville impersonator who wants to add the (famous) lawyer to his act. Oh, and a nervous butler and French maid. And the impersonator’s wife…who’s brought into it by her friend, the secretary, on the basis that she can get the lawyer to get her a divorce, cheap, if she plays along on a date.

Put them all together, mix with the lawyer’s bet that if the impersonator can fool the mother-in-law (and give the lawyer an out to spend the night, um, blooming), he can add the lawyer to his act…and it’s supposed to be hilarious (and risqué!), especially the last 20-25 minutes. Maybe it is. Edward Everett Horton certainly gives it his best shot. But, well, I found myself nodding off in early parts and regarding the last part as more action than comedy. Maybe that’s just me. Not just me: The print’s a little soft, and the sound’s pretty bad, with dialog getting softer and louder for no apparent reason. All considered, I can’t possibly give this more than $1.

Peck’s Bad Boy With the Circus, 1938, b&w. Edward F. Cline (dir.), Tommy Kelly, Ann Gillis, Edgar Kennedy, Benita Hume, Billy Gilbert, Grant Mitchell, Nana Bryant, George ‘Spanky’ McFarland, William Demarest. 1:18 [1:06]

I find this movie almost impossible to review entirely out of context—except to note that it’s a good example of how to pad a 20-minute plot out to feature-film (albeit short feature) length, in this case by including whole gobs of circus acts, some of them twice.

The basic plot: our hero, a “bad boy” in the prankster sense of “he’s a caution!” rather than one of the future thugs in a “cute” Boys or Kids series that will go unnamed, is such a caution (finding a frog and putting it in his soup bowl at lunch) that his parents tell him he can’t go to camp as they’re going on their fishing vacation—and he’s planning to win the obstacle race the third year in a row, which would mean he could keep the cup that he shines incessantly.

Just as they’re leaving, the husband and wife, separately, each relents and gives him $5 to cover the train ride to the camp and his expenses. (Hmm. $5 in 1938 would be $76 in 2010. Still a pretty cheap train ride and camp expenses.) But he goes out to hang with his buds and discovers that a circus is coming to town, that day, one night only. In ensuing plot twists, he loses his $10, he winds up in a girl’s dress, he…well, of course there’s a happy ending.

It’s padded all to pieces but it is good fun, probably the more so if you’re a fan of the series (of which this is apparently the third and last). Good cast, including one of Spanky McFarland’s few appearances as somebody other than Spanky. It’s also missing 12 minutes, apparently. I come up with $1.25.

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