Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Talk of the Town (1942)

     The Talk of the Town (1942) D: George Stevens. Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Coleman] One of the great Hollywood comedies when Hollywood made great comedies. Leonard Dilg (Cary Grant), a falsely accused prisoner escapes, holes up in the house that a stuffy law prof, Michael Lightcap (Ronald Coleman), is renting for the summer, and Nora Shelly (Jean Arthur), the teacher who owns the house, becomes the prof’s secretary/cook. The three develop a nice relationship, and when mob-violence and obvious corruption become too much for the prof to ignore, he takes the case, finds the man whose supposed death has earned Dilg the murder rap, and makes a Grand Speech when he interrupts the trial, which is about to turn into a lunching. Lightcap gets his seat on the Supreme Court, the crooked factory owner and bent judge who concocted the plot against Dilg are indicted, and Dilg and Shelley end up in each other’s arms.
     As you can see, a preposterous plot, but it doesn’t harm a well-directed, fast-paced, well-acted and photographed movie. The three stars are pros, they act their parts with just enough conviction to make us believe the silly story. The supporting actors are pros, too, and every one does at least a workman-like job. The centre of the movie is Nora Shelley: Jean Arthur is an under-rated actor, I think. The situations sometimes reach the absurdist heights of a Laurel & Hardy, and the second ending showing Shelley choosing Dilg over Lightcap is contrived. But so’s the whole movie, really, so a shift in tone is as logical as all the other plot twists.
     We enjoyed this movie, it holds up well. ***

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