Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Long, Hot Summer

Year 4, Day 49 - 2/18/12 - Movie #1,049

BEFORE: This time Lee Remick carries over from "Days of Wine and Roses", which justifies me watching this one in February, instead of summertime.

See, Turner Classic Movies, I can program a film set in the southern U.S. too.  What's that?  They've moved on to where?  France?  Geez, I'll never catch up with them at this rate.  Today I'm passing on "Gigi", "Ninotchka", the 1948 "Three Musketeers", the 1939 "Hunchback of Notre Dame", and "The Day of the Jackal".  The only film on today's schedule that I've seen is "Victor/Victoria", directed by Blake Edwards, who also directed "Days of Wine and Roses".  Small world.

THE PLOT:  Accused barn burner and con man Ben Quick arrives in a small Mississippi town and quickly ingratiates himself with its richest family, the Varners.

AFTER: Enough with those big-city ways, let's see how they handle romance down South.  We start with the mysterious drifter, who blows into town and rents a tenant farm from the genteel rich family, and parlays that into a job in the general store, while setting his sights on the oldest daughter of the stereotypical fat & loud patriarch/plantation owner.  He's played rather emotively by Orson Welles (last seen in "The Third Man"), and his character seems like a big rip-off of Big Daddy from "A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".  But I should probably figure out whether Faulkner wrote this before Tennessee Williams wrote that, before I accuse anyone of plagiarism.  (Turns out Faulkner wrote the short stories this was based on in 1940, and Williams' play was first staged in 1955 - but both films were released in the same year, 1958)

The daughter, Clara, has a boyfriend.  Though maybe that should be "boyfriend", since they've been dating for years and he hasn't made his move yet.  Considering that he's got a weak constitution and an overbearing mother, they might as well have put the guy in a dress, or given him a boyfriend of his own.  I learned from watching "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" that these films tend to have at least one repressed homosexual, and I'm guessing here it's that guy.

This is set in the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone, and a gal is considered a spinster if she's not married by the age of 25, apparently.  And people express their interest in each other by buying their picnic lunches at a charity auction, because they can't very well take one another out to a Chinese restaurant for sweet and sour shrimp, now, can they?  

The pieces do manage to come together, mostly, at the end, but it all seems a little counter-intuitive.  A son regains his father's respect by trying to kill him (that's odd...) and a man gains a woman's love when he stops chasing after her.  Maybe that's just the way it works in Mississippi, like the way the water runs down the drain the other way below the equator?  (I know that's a false myth, BTW)

But what was up with Orson Welles?  In addition to the over-the-top acting, he was wearing some kind of false nose or something, his hair looked very fake, and in some scenes it looked like he was wearing very dark make-up.  Was his character supposed to be very tan, or did he get some bad advice about the complexion of Southern men?  Geez, it was almost like blackface, or at least Hindu or something.

NITPICK POINT: How could the town mob think that Ben Quick burned down the barn, when they were staring right at him, working at the general store across town?  Did they think he used some kind of remote device, or perhaps paid someone else to set the fire?  Or were they just idiots?

Starring Paul Newman (last seen in "Cool Hand Luke"), Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa (last seen in "City Hall"), Angela Lansbury (last seen in "The Company of Wolves"), and Richard Anderson (most famous for playing Steve Austin's boss on "The Six Million Dollar Man")

RATING: 3 out of 10 wild horses  (a very obvious metaphor - yeah, we get it...)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Days of Wine and Roses

Year 4, Day 48 - 2/17/12 - Movie #1,048

BEFORE: Jack Lemmon carries over from "The Apartment" - all part of the plan.

Looks like I'm off to San Francisco tonight, while TCM is spending the day in the American South, with "The Baby Doll", "The Miracle Worker", "Sounder" and "I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang".  Also "Glory", which I've seen, and "Gone With the Wind", which I have to pass on yet again.  Maybe I'll save that one (and "Gandhi", and "Doctor Zhivago") for the end of the project.  I could go out on "Gone With the Wind" - but I am picking up two films, "All the King's Men" and "In the Heat of the Night" - another two winners of the Best Picture Oscar!

THE PLOT: An alcoholic falls in love with and gets married to a young woman, whom he systematically addicts to booze so they can share his "passion" together.

AFTER: I felt a little waylaid by this one, since it starts out like a romance, and the 2nd half is little more than a cautionary tale, or a public service announcement for Alcoholics Anonymous.  Lemmon plays a public-relations man this time, and part of his job (and, I suspect, many jobs in the 1960's) was wining and dining clients, being social and attending functions, obviously where alcohol is served in mass quantities.

He meets a woman (whom he mistakes at first for one of an Arab sheik's "dates"), and they have a love-hate thing going on, until they both realize the attraction, confide in each other - but he's a steady drinker and she's not.  Personally I didn't see the problem here - doesn't he always have a designated driver this way?  But he turns her on to chocolate-flavored girlie drinks (who knew a Brandy Alexander was a gateway drug?) and before long, they're boozing it up together.

They marry and have a daughter, and one day a situation forces them to try and regain control of their lives.  But as you may imagine, it's tough for alchoholics to quit just like that, without surrendering to the higher power or whatever, so they keep backsliding and digging the hole deeper and deeper.

I thought that the situations portrayed were vastly over-blown - I'm not an expert, but I don't think too many alcoholics end up in a strait-jacket in the "nervous ward".  Plus I'm guessing that A.A. was a pretty new deal back in 1962, because they sort of had to over-explain what it was founded to accomplish, and how it's non-denominational, self-funded, non-judgmental, etc.  These days you just have to show a meeting in progress in a movie or on a TV show, and most or us will get the drift.

I can't speak about whether the points made about alcoholism were valid or not - I'm a heavy drinker sometimes, like at beer festivals, but I've never felt like I was a "slave to demon alcohol", or out of control.  I've certainly never torn up a greenhouse looking for a hidden flask, or felt the need to hide a flask somewhere on my body.

But this was a different age, when any self-respecting man carried a flask, no?  And I'm not prepared to say that Lemmon's character lost his job because of booze - it seemed more like he got marginalized for not performing tasks he found unsavory, and for that he should be championed, rather than pilloried.

So I don't know if the situation could be as black-and-white (figuratively, not literally, though the film is also in black-and-white) as portrayed here - I suppose some people can become social drinkers again and some can't.  And sometimes maybe after failing to help someone, or realizing they don't want help, you have to watch someone you care about struggle with their demons, at the cost of the relationship.  Certainly if two people aren't on the same page, someone might have to be cut loose.  But that sucks.

Also starring Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, Charles Bickford, Jack Albertson.

RATING: 4 out of 10 shot glasses

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Apartment

Year 4, Day 47 - 2/16/12 - Movie #1,047

BEFORE: This one's been on my list for a while, but I only got a good copy a couple of months ago.  This would probably have fit in with my big business/office politics chain, but I didn't have a copy then.  Linking from Marilyn Monroe, who was of course in "Some Like It Hot" with Jack Lemmon, and this film was also directed by Billy Wilder, and won Best Picture of 1960.  Always a big day around here when I cross another Oscar winner off the list.  See, I told you some real classics would be coming up if you stuck with me...

We went out tonight for our post-Valentine's Day dinner (we never go out on Feb. 14, that would be too bananas) and we went to Delmonico's downtown - a steakhouse that's been around since 1837.  A place that's (allegedly) the birthplace of oysters rockefeller, lobster newburg, eggs benedict, etc.  But I was struck by the sense of NYC history, imagining what sort of people have eaten there over the years - probably everyone from Boss Tweed to John Lindsay, Fiorello La Guardia and so on.  It's weird to imagine a place like a restaurant surviving decade after decade as the world around it continues to change...

The TCM roadtrip is still in Africa today, screening "King Solomon's Mines", "The Desert Rats" and "The Black Stallion" (seen it) before moving on to Russia for "Fiddler on the Roof" (seen it), "Doctor Zhivago" and "Mission to Moscow".  I'm going to pick up "Born Free" from the Africa trip, because I only have a vague memory of that film from my childhood, and take another pass on "Doctor Zhivago".  I really should watch it due to its reputation, but I just don't have the DVR space right now.  That film, along with "Gandhi" and "Gone With the Wind", is still in my long-term plans, but they just seem like a lot of effort.

THE PLOT: A man tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue.

AFTER: I'm glad this film fit in here, because it's more about sexual politics than office politics - actually, the two are fairly intertwined.  But again I've got to project myself back into NYC history, to a time before the Gay 90's, the Equal Rights 80's,  the Swinging 70's, and most of the go-go 60's.  Before text-messaging, before AIDS, before Woodstock, before the g.d. Beatles even - I think Eisenhower was president, for Pete's sake.  So it's a look at a particular moment in history, and needs to be taken as such.

So, as with "Desk Set", I take another look at a snapshot of NY's past (complete with another look at a swinging, booze-soaked Christmas party).  And as with "The Seven Year Itch", the central character is a nebbish - a nice-enough guy who seems competent at his job, but clueless when it comes to the opposite sex.  (Yes, Tom Ewell's character was married, and Jack Lemmon's character here is single, but other than that, essentially they're the same)

C.C. Baxter (Lemmon, last seen in "My Fellow Americans") works for a large insurance company, and is caught up in a scheme where he lets the executives use his nearby apartment for trysts with their girlfriends (or hookers, or various loose women, who knows?) while he works late, or goes to the movies, or just sits on a bench in Central Park.  He receives vague promises from them that this will lead to a promotion, and it seems like no harm is being done, unless you count his short-term exposure to the elements, and the long-term damage to at least four marriages.

We assume Baxter is getting compensated, at least for the snacks and the liquor, and through his eventual promotion over others who have been at the company longer.  But what about his rent?  The costs of (ick) clean-up?  The damage to his reputation, since his neighbors assume he's got wild parties going on every night?  Why doesn't he turn this around on the executives and blackmail them for all they're worth?  Because he's too nice a fella, that's why - which we, the audience, realize, even if his stereotypically Jewish neighbors don't.

Things get more complicated when he gets the promotion - though the executives make it clear that they could toss him on the street with a moment's notice - and he considers getting a love-life of his own, by asking out the attractive but seemingly unavailable elevator operator.  Apparently businessmen in the late 1950's weren't comfortable pushing the buttons for their own floors, and needed a low-level staffer to do it for them, even after elevators became fully automatic.

Here's where coincidence raises its ugly head, though I won't divulge all the twists in the plot here.  And it's also where Baxter's house of cards starts to come crashing down, at great personal cost to all involved.

I have to point out that there are no winners here - men (with only one or two notable exceptions) are portrayed as sleazy horndogs, unsatisfied with the house in White Plains, the still-attractive wife and the two kids, chasing secretaries around the office and always, always having a little something on the side before catching the Metro-North.  Women are either the scorned wives, loose barflies or scheming secretaries, either way lacking in the self-esteem department - except for the lead female elevator operator, who's got a newstand-worth of issues, can't get herself over the unattainable, detached executive and fails to notice the nice, single guy right under her nose.  Eventually she recognizes the destructive pattern she tends to follow, but it's a long, hard road to self-awareness.

It's a well-constructed film, but at times overly melodramatic, and mostly bleak.  And it made me wonder how anybody got any work done back then, since everyone seems to be so focused on getting some action.  Since I wasn't around back in 1960, is this what things were really like?

Also starring Shirley MacLaine (last seen in "Being There"), Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston (last seen in "Popeye"), David White (who also played advertising exec Larry Tate on "Bewitched") and Edie Adams.

RATING: 7 out of 10 hands of gin rummy

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Seven Year Itch

Year 4, Day 46 - 2/15/12 - Movie #1,046

BEFORE: After that brief stop in Hungary, I'm back in NY.  It's good to be back.   Another classic from the 1950's tonight, and with Marilyn Monroe back in the public consciousness thanks to an Oscar-nominated film and a hit (?) TV show called "Smash", the timing seems right.  I can link from Jimmy Stewart, who was also in "How the West Was Won" with Eli Wallach, who was also in "The Misfits" with Marilyn, which is where I last saw her.

Turner Classic Movies is spending the day in the Pacific Ocean, of all places.  We never seem to be on the same itinerary, except we were both in NYC over the weekend, while I was watching "Desk Set" and "Bringing Up Baby".  Today's line-up includes "The Last Voyage", "They Were Expendable" and one film I've seen, "The Caine Mutiny".  Then it's on to Africa (not sure I see the connection...) for "The Nun's Story", "Breaker Morant" and one film that's still on my list, "Casablanca".  So I'm not adding anything to the list today, but Friday I need to add several films, and that will negate any progress made today.

THE PLOT: When his family goes away for the summer, a so-far faithful husband is tempted by a beautiful neighbor.

AFTER: Well, since we're on the other side of Valentine's Day now, I might as well deal with the topic of infidelity, or at least temptation, as seen in this film.  Every married person has to deal with it at some point or another.

And it's another look at NYC professionals in the 1950's.  Is it me, or did all of the New Yorkers in the movies tend to be book editors, or magazine writers, or advertising executives?  Guys who head downtown with a briefcase and work in a windowless room with a mousy (yet still kind of hot) secretary.  According to this film, all the professional husbands in NYC would stay and work in the hot summer while sending their wives and kids out of town.  Really?  Because there's no way that situation can possibly go south - it just would give them all a license to cheat, right?  The wives, too...

The central character here is a nebbishy sort who's vowed not to drink or smoke or fool around while wifey's out of town.  But that's before he gets a glimpse of the new upstairs summer tenant, played by Marilyn.  Before you know it, their paths have crossed and his imagination is running wild, and they're sharing cigarettes and champagne.  She feels safe with a married man, but she hasn't accounted for the "fact" that men supposedly want to cheat after seven years of marriage.  It's awfully convenient that he happens to be editing a book based around this principle, and that he's been married for exactly that period of time.

I think they could have pushed the envelope a lot more, shown us more of what his imagination was really capable of.  This was sort of the precursor to shows like "Dream On", which had elaborate fantasy sequences of a man's sexy thoughts.  A typical man in New York City probably sees pretty women everywhere (not that I'd notice...).  Still, this was probably considered outrageously racy for its time - lots of symbolically erotic imagery like exploding bottles of champagne.

This farce also relies quite heavily on improbable occurences - people who show up at the most inopportune times, or someone tripping at the worst moment.  It's most famous for the shot of Marilyn standing atop a subway grate with her white dress blowing up - and that's sort of typical for what takes place here.  "Why, goodness!  I had no IDEA that would happen!"  Sure thing, honey.

It's a wonder that the wife didn't come home unexpectedly to find the husband making toast while the blonde bombshell neighbor was in the shower - man, it's tough to talk your way out of that one, even if there IS a rational explanation.  (Again, not that I'd know...)

Also starring Tom Ewell, and a cameo from Oskar Homolka, an actor with one of the best names ever.

RATING: 5 out of 10 tomato plants

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Shop Around the Corner

Year 4, Day 45 - 2/14/12 - Movie #1,045

BEFORE: It's an easy link from Cary Grant to Jimmy Stewart via "The Philadelphia Story" - and as a bonus, last night's film was referenced in a Meg Ryan film ("Sleepless in Seattle") and this one was remade as a Meg Ryan film ("You've Got Mail").

The original plan was to watch "An Affair to Remember" for Valentine's Day, but I had to re-work my schedule, and I think this may work out even better.  Looking back on my V-Day choices for the past few years, in 2009 I watched "Chocolat", so connecting back to that chocolate shop with another film about people working in a store seems fitting.

TCM is spending the day in romantic Italy, how appropriate.   "Two Women", "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone", "Indiscretion of an American Wife", "Summertime" and "Romeo and Juliet" all seem to fit a common theme, in addition to being geographically similar.  ("A Farewell to Arms" and "The Bicycle Thief", not so much)  But I'm only picking up "A Room With a View", which should pair nicely on a DVD with "A Passage to India", since they're both adaptations of E.M. Forster novels.

THE PLOT: Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand one another, without realizing that they're falling in love through the post as each other's anonymous pen pal.

AFTER: Yeah, I liked this one quite a bit, despite the fact that it's in black-and-white, set in Hungary, and the lead actress also follows the "say all your lines very quickly" school of acting.  Detailing the private lives of clerks and salespeople in a small menswear/gift store.  Some of the characters were such broad stereotypes that at times it reminded me of the BBC comedy "Are You Being Served?".

But, we're here to see two people fall in love through correspondence.  And dramatic irony demands that the two people also know each other in the real world, and are often at odds with each other, thus increasing the shock value when the veil is finally revealed.  Of course WE the audience realize it quite early, because we're privy to all of their private conversations.

It's not really mistaken identity (though there is a bit of that in this film as well), but more about how one can idealize a romantic partner, without noticing the person who is right under their nose, or working very closely with them.  Here the two lovers connect intellectually via correspondence, while debating what the other person looks like, or whether that even matters.

I like the process depicted here, because it gets into the HOW and WHY of two people falling in love, unlike some recent films that settled for just the WHO.  And sorry, "An Affair to Remember", but two people ordering the same cocktail from the ship's bar does not mean they're connecting intellectually.

Once one of the prospective lovebirds realizes the other's identity, it's pretty much delay, delay, delay until the right moment at the end of the film - but at least the other twists and turns, like the shopowner's marital troubles, were interesting enough to fill the necessary time.

 When I was in the third grade, I left little "secret admirer" notes in a classmate's desk - but once she figured out who was doing it, I denied everything.  I simply had no plan for what would come next, which made for an awkward time at school until the teacher decided to re-arrange the desks.  Many years later, I met my wife through the e-mail, so this is a topic that speaks to me.  I understand now what it means to connect through correspondence, and then transfer that connection to the real world.

It doesn't matter how two people meet, it only matters what comes after - so I thank my wife for what came after, putting up with me for 15-plus years, which includes a good number of Valentine's Days.

Starring James Stewart (last seen in "The Philadelphia Story"), Margaret Sullavan, and Frank Morgan, most famous for playing the title role (and several others) in "The Wizard of Oz".

RATING: 6 out of 10 music boxes

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Affair to Remember

Year 4, Day 44 - 2/13/12 - Movie #1,044

BEFORE: This time Cary Grant carries over - another classic romance, but all I really know about it is from its appearance in "Sleepless in Seattle".

Coincidentally, the TCM world tour goes on a European cruise today, after a stop in the Midwest for "Splendor in the Grass", "Boys' Town" and "North by Northwest", it's on to Greece for "The Guns of Navarone" (seen it), "Z", and "Never on Sunday" and then Italy for "8 1/2".  I really should watch that last one, but I've got no interest in Fellini.  I'm opting out again today and recording "Paul", last year's film about a couple of slackers who find an alien.  That's more my kind of film.

THE PLOT: A couple falls in love on a cruise and agrees to meet in six months at the Empire State Building - but will it happen?

AFTER: Another coincidence - this film and the two before it all featured characters who were engaged to others, before meeting "better" partners.  Which is a tricky thing for a movie plot - without overly disparaging someone, like portraying them as abusive, how do you get across that a person's fiance is unsuitable?  In this one, we never really get to know that much about the main characters' intended spouses, so we have to assume that they're somehow imperfect, or perhaps incapable of providing that movie-magic "spark".

So international playboy/slacker Nickie Ferrante (Grant) and former cabaret singer/kept woman Terry McKay meet aboard a cruise ship - which admittedly is a distorted reality of its own, apart from the conventions of the land-based world.  I mean, come on, all those buffets, and cocktails, and fancy dinners every night!  Who wouldn't fall in love?

But there are a few hitches in the equation - how do we know that their love is sincere, that they're not just both looking for a way out of their weddings?  Or that they're not being affected by the scenery, or the sea air?  Not to mention that if someone in a (presumably) monogamous, committed, almost-married relationship starts falling for you, what makes you think that they'll end up being faithful to you?  Doesn't past history suggest future behavior?

Am I right to imply that Ferrante is marrying for money, and McKay is getting married since she doesn't feel she has any other options?  So what they find on the cruise ship is real love, just because they can finish each other's sentences?  Or am I reading too much between the lines here?

They agree to meet again in 6 months, on top of the Empire State building - and in that time, Ferrante's going to give this "work" thing a try, to see if he can do it.  What was he doing before that, living off a trust fund?  He takes up painting again - but I'm not sure if I'd equate that with holding down a 9 to 5 job.  And she's going to start singing in nightclubs again - because there's no chance that she'll meet someone new in the interim that way.

I don't know, the pieces didn't really come together for me on this one.  So much of the interplay depended on coincidence, and in some cases, miscommunication.  Not as much miscommunication as was seen in "Bringing Up Baby", but still...  Two people had a fling on a cruise, and it just seemed like they couldn't (and perhaps shouldn't) make it work on land.  The Act 5 "darkest before the dawn" moment doesn't always work in a romantic plotline.  Plus, there were a number of scenes (at the parochial school music class in particular) that just seemed to go nowhere.

This is how I see it: I've been on cruises twice, and they represent an augmented reality, to say the least.  If you start a relationship on a cruise, you shouldn't expect it to work on dry land any more than you should expect to have a fancy dinner every night, or visit a casino or an ice cream bar at 2 am.  Look at the way the main characters act when they come off the cruise - he's going to make it work as a starving artist (really?) and she's going to get back into the nightclubs.  Watch the early rounds of "American Idol" auditions and you'll see tons of people who are just as delusional.  Yes, one of them is going to be super-famous, but there are 5 stadiums full of people trying out!

Then we've got the extra complications with Nickie's fame (though I'm not really sure why he's famous, since that painting career never took off).  How many high-profile relationships have gone the distance?  Only a few - now, is that because:
A. People who reach a certain level of fame tend to be self-centered egotists who would have no problem using their fame to find a new love, so why stick around and make it work?
B. Famous people are just like regular folks, and it's hard to make love last in any relationship - but since they're in the spotlight, their romantic troubles are just hyper-publicized.
C. What does it matter?  Love is fleeting, relationships are hard, and when it's gone, it's gone. 

Either way, it seems weird for people to set these arbitrary deadlines, like "I'll see you in 6 months" or "If we're both not married when we turn 35".  How could these things NOT affect the relationships people are already in?  If you make a pact with someone like this, won't you be thinking about it all the time?  That's got to affect the day-to-day relationship you're already in, at least on a subconscious level.  At the very least, you'll seem distant and distracted, and your partner will know something's up.  Bottom line - that's not my definition of romance, but your mileage may vary.

RATING: 4 out of 10 telegrams

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bringing Up Baby

Year 4, Day 43 - 2/12/12 - Movie #1,043

BEFORE: What's more classic than Tracy and Hepburn?  Grant and Hepburn, I suppose.  Kate Hepburn carries over for this screwball comedy.  "Screwball" being quite different from "slapstick", in that there are fewer cream pies thrown and less falling down.  (See, I went to film school...)  The humor here is based more on situations like mistaken identity and other confusions.  Really, the only time the two genres ever merged successfully was on shows like "Three's Company" and "Bosom Buddies".

The TCM roadtrip is still at Grand Central Station in NYC - and I've already seen most of today's line-up, including "On the Town", "Funny Girl", "Marty" and "Awakenings".  I'm passing on "It Should Happen to You", "The Seven Little Foys", "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Let's Make Love" - but I am picking up "The Killing Fields" from another channel today, so another push.

THE PLOT: While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard "Baby."

AFTER: As we see here, screwball comedy is often prone to devolving into random nonsense.  You have to take into an account that this film was released in 1938, the country had not yet recovered from the Great Depression, so this was probably the only plot the filmmakers could afford.  If any character had taken just a minute to properly explain anything, well, then the characters would understand each other, and then what kind of comedy would that be?

Plus the actors were apparently told to shout all of their lines, so that the crew could use cheaper, less sensitive microphones - and it's quite obvious that they were instructed to deliver all of the dialogue quite quickly, which ultimately would use less film stock.  How else to explain why one of Hollywood's most beloved actresses often sounds like a hyperactive chipmunk?

Hepburn's character, in addition to being a klutz, keeps encountering/annoying Cary Grant's character - but I couldn't decide if she was intentionally keeping him away from his job + relationship, or if she really was supposed to be that stupid and clueless.  Damn, there's such a fine line sometimes!

Yes, his character is engaged, but it's shown to be a passionless relationship - sort of like Hepburn's lack-of-romance with Gig Young in last night's film.  I also feel like I've seen this plot before, because of a similarity to "Forces of Nature" - Grant's character can't seem to get to his wedding, either, since things keep going wrong and Hepburn's ineptitude in keeping track of a leopard (really?) prevents him from getting there.  So Ben Affleck = modern-day Cary Grant, and Kate Hepburn was like the Sandra Bullock of the 1930's?

At least this film avoided the major snag in "Desk Set", which failed to describe why Spencer Tracy's character was a better romantic match than Gig Young.  Here, there's no mistaking it - the fiancee is a real cold fish, and Hepburn's character is much more wild, exciting and interesting.  Too bad she's also more accident-prone, troublesome and annoying.

It does seem odd that during the Depression, some people were mere peons, working in butcher shops and as circus roustabouts, while others lived in mansions with extensive grounds and were able to donate $1 million (in 1938 dollars!) to a museum, while importing exotic pets like leopards from Brazil.  And yet they never once think to put said leopard on a leash, or in a cage - that's just short-sighted.  I've never wished harder to see someone get mauled by a leopard, but I was disappointed.

RATING: 3 out of 10 olives