Saturday, March 21, 2015

In Name Only

Year 7, Day 80 - 3/21/15 - Movie #1,980

BEFORE: Fulfilled my annual spring equinox ritual by shaving off my winter beard, and in honor of Ronald Colman's scene in "The Talk of the Town", this year I made sure my trusty manservant was on hand to witness it - damned if the sight didn't bring a tear to his eye, imagine that.  I guess now I'm ready to reconsider my positions on the American legal system.  

I think that's it for Cary Grant's screwball comedies, so that means I've entered the third round of (M)Archie Madness, let's call these the "oldies".  One more week of the tournament to go.  Yes, I realize I didn't hold true to reverse chronological order, this film was released in 1939 and "The Awful Truth" came out in 1937 - but I wanted to keep the three Irene Dunne films together, and they all sort of riffed on the same theme, so I stand by that decision.

THE PLOT:  While out riding in the country, wealthy New Yorker Alec Walker meets young widow Julie Eden, and a relationship quickly develops. However, Alec has not told her that he is already locked into a loveless marriage to the avaricious Maida.

AFTER: Cary Grant and his leading lady?  Check.  Love triangle with legal complications?  Check.  Screwball antics?  No way, not here.  And when you take the comedy out of the situation, it seems we're just left with sentiment - love and caring, but also infidelity, back-stabbing and serious illness.  

Is it me, or did Cary Grant's characters always have something going on the side?  In this film he's got a wife and a few ex-girlfriends, and still he starts up a new relationship.  He and his wife seem to have some sort of understanding, however, as long as he comes home to her and she gets to live a life of luxury, she's willing to look the other way, believing that his flings will burn themselves out after about a year, maximum, and he'll come back to her.  

But when the latest girlfriend seems like a keeper, the wife goes off on holiday with her in-laws, saying she'll break the news about the impending divorce, but really planning to pitch herself to them as the ideal, one-and-only mate, and poisoning their minds against their son's new love.  It's another case where a character is afraid of having a five-minute conversation, and it costs them weeks, or months, of personal growth.  The resulting situation also manages to fill up about 30 minutes of screen time, but it's maddening for a viewer who realizes there was a better way to handle things. 

I wonder how many viewers in 1939 rooted for the wife, even though she was portrayed as the conniving gold-digger.  Some people would no doubt champion the cause of marriage even to the point of making both of its participants miserable, and couldn't imagine rooting for the adulterous affair to win out.  And while it's obvious that the wife's love needed to be depicted as "not real" or impure in order to justify the adulterous relationship with regards to the production code, it's still amazing that this one got by the censors, since it portrays a couple living in sin, but being very happy together. 

Also starring Carole Lombard (last seen in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"), Kay Francis, Charles Coburn (last seen in "The Paradine Case"), Nella Walker, Helen Vinson, Katharine Alexander (last seen in "Now, Voyager"). 

RATING: 4 out of 10 garden parties

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Awful Truth

Year 7, Day 79 - 3/20/15 - Movie #1,979

BEFORE:  First day of spring, my ass.  We're getting a snowstorm today in NYC, one final (or so we hope) indignity of winter, and if Mayor Bloomberg had followed through on plans to put a big clear dome over the city, it wouldn't even be a concern right now.  I'm assuming this was proposed at some point, because why else would we have elected a crazy billionaire mayor for three terms when the legal limit was two?  

This is my third film in a row with Irene Dunne co-starring with Cary Grant, which means it's the first one they made together, since I'm still going backward chronologically.  

Unfounded suspicions lead a married couple to begin divorce proceedings, whereupon they start undermining each other's attempts to find new romance.

AFTER: By now, the vagaries of the production code and the typical antics of the screwball comedy are familiar to me - they've been repeated again and again since diving back into Cary Grant's career, past 1950 or so.  First, we've got a set of instructions imposed by a legal system or government - here it's a divorce that will become effective in 90 days, but in past films in this chain it's been either the rules of courting a Persian princess, or Grant being forced by a judge to date a teenager.  Secondly, we've got the production code, a second set of rules relating to the perceived morals of the time - Grant's character can't kiss the princess, and he certainly can't get physical with the teenager.  Similarly there couldn't be direct references to extra-marital sex in "My Favorite Wife", not on the island, and not in a hotel room - separate beds, please, we're married...

In today's film, the "rules" say that there can't be references to sex outside the marriage - but come on, that's totally what's happening.  The husband's pretending to be in Florida when he's somewhere else, and the wife is spending a lot of time with her music teacher.  You, as a viewer, have to guess at what they're really doing.  I think the couple here, like a great many people, find that legal married sex just isn't as appealing as cheating, or single sex.  Oh, it's still fun, to be sure, but it's not nearly as naughty, by definition.  

So the Warriner couple here decides to face facts and divorce - but the plot device that keeps them in contact is shared custody of their dog, Mr. Smith.  It's clever, the dog knows tricks like "hide and seek" so he provides both comic relief and a plot device.  Other plot devices abound, ones that give clues into who's really sleeping with whom.  OK, so maybe it's not that much of a mystery, but compare this to a more modern film like, say, "The 40-Year Old Virgin", and it's like night and day - films can be so much more explicit now, even our modern light comedies seem sort of shocking by comparison.  

Keeping the two ex-lovers in contact with each other provides them with opportunities to sabotage each other's new relationships, and in the wife's case, she pulls another identity deception by pretending to be her ex-husband's less refined sister - but she still calls him "Honey".  Umm....ewwww??  We've got the same NITPICK POINT as last night - namely that someone pulls an unlikely deception, because chances are that since the Warriners were elite members of society, it's extremely likely that fellow rich people would have recognized her from photos in the newspaper, so her masquerade shouldn't have worked.

Eventually the couple realizes that maybe splitting up was the best thing for the marriage - after all, once the divorce is final, wouldn't that make sex all single-like and naughty again?

This is regarded as one of the most classic and representative films of the screwball comedy genre - but what exactly is the "awful truth"  mentioned in the title?  The fact that many married people cheat on each other?  The fact that sex is more fun when it's not legalized?  Or does it refer to the fact that the couple belongs together, which they are hesitant to admit?  I'm not sure, but the dialogue seems to suggest the latter.

Also starring Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy (last seen in "His Girl Friday"), Alexander Darcy (last seen in "How to Marry a Millionaire"), Cecil Cunningham, Joyce Compton.

RATING: 5 out of 10 pratfalls

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Favorite Wife

Year 7, Day 78 - 3/19/15 - Movie #1,978

BEFORE: Day 13 of the (M)Archie Madness tournament, and I'm all the way back to 1941.  But I'm going all the way back to 1933 before I turn around and come back, to properly position myself for April Fool's Day.  I still haven't figured out a proper order after mid-April, the best I can figure is that I'll separate out the Halloween films and the Christmas films, then try to organize what's left.  

THE PLOT: Missing for seven years and presumed dead, a woman returns home on the day of her husband's second marriage. 

AFTER: There's no more obvious portrayal of a love triangle, or one that turns into a love rectangle.  If this film feels familiar, perhaps (like me) you've seen the 1963 remake titled "Move Over, Darling" starring James Garner and Doris Day.  And it's probably also been recycled and reworked a few hundred times since.  A wife disappears from an oceanography expedition, and survives on a deserted island (not "desert", as some people mistakenly say, because you simply can't survive in a desert), returning on the exact day that her husband has her declared legally dead in order to remarry.  

There's nothing about this that doesn't feel contrived - it's nothing but contrivances.  Let's start with the fact that the wife was gone for seven years, and turns up exactly on her husband's wedding day.  Not that she knew that, of course, so let's say there's a 1 in 2,555 chance of that happening - unlikely odds to be sure. 

But together they form a snapshot of exactly what was and wasn't morally acceptable in 1940, at least according to the Production Code.  Since his first wife is still alive, sleeping with his new wife would be bigamous and not allowed - so the storyline demands that she go and interrupt the honeymoon before that happens.  And then once he sees his first wife, Grant's character hems and haws and can't find the right way to tell his second wife the news - because as soon as he does, the plot's over.  

As a result, a conversation that should take 30 seconds - "Hey, my first wife is alive!" instead takes about 30 minutes.  So it's delay, delay, delay until someone can find the "perfect time" to have that talk.
(Hey, if Brad and Janet could have made a quick phone call, then the whole plot of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" wouldn't have happened.)  Really, this is pretty standard for a bedroom farce - what's unusual is that no one is having sex, because that wouldn't be proper.  

In the same manner, once it's revealed that the wife wasn't alone on that island, and that there was a man with her living out a sort of "Adam & Eve" fantasy, she of course denies that anything untoward happened (even though the audience probably assumes it did).  Because even if she never expected to see her husband again, we still have to believe that she remained faithful if we want to respect her. (Come on, you know they totally did it...) 

I don't know how some people end up remarrying people they split up with previously.  Being shipwrecked and marooned is a special case, of course.  A modern version of this storyline could involve a disaster like that Malaysian airplane, all of those people are presumed dead, right?  But if, say, the plane was hijacked and taken somewhere, conceivably the passengers could be held hostage - they could turn up years later, it's possible.  

But this film presumes that people together will love each other, and people separated by disaster eventually have to move on.  The simple solution is to just put them back together, but I'm not so sure it would be that clear-cut.  How do you overlook your spouse taking another lover in your absence?   No problem here, the judge fixes everything - this has been quite a week for appearances by our judicial system.

Another film partially set in a hotel - this is turning into a running theme for the year!  Here hilarity ensues when the hotel staff realizes that Grant's character has his wife in Suite C, but is spending time with another woman in Suite A.  Finally the hotel manager has to inform him that his apparent bedroom -hopping is not appropriate for such a classy hotel.  Sure, like any hotel staff has any right to dictate what goes on behind closed doors - I bet that hotel employees have pretty much seen it all. 

NITPICK POINT: After her return, the first wife masquerades as an old friend from the South - similar to the way Grant's character pretended to be the gardener in "The Talk of the Town".  This is a story technique that goes back to Shakespeare, and probably before that - but wouldn't you imagine that the second wife would have at least seen a picture of the first wife at some point?  I mean, even the kids would probably have recognized their mother sooner, assuming they'd seen photos.  And what sort of bastard wouldn't let his kids see photos of their dead mother?

Also starring Irene Dunne (also carrying over from "Penny Serenade"), Randolph Scott, Gail Patrick (last seen in "Stage Door"), Ann Shoemaker.

RATING: 5 out of 10 athletic clubs

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Penny Serenade

Year 7, Day 77 - 3/18/15 - Movie #1,977

BEFORE:  I'm currently working on publicity and promotions for the film CHEATIN' (Movie #1,650) which is finally going to be released in U.S. theaters, starting on April 3 in New York.  In order to get the film a week in a NYC theater, we had to "four-wall" it, which means finding someone to buy all of the tickets, with the hope of selling enough of them to cover that cost.  Then when you add in the cost of hiring a booking agent, publicists in three markets, printing postcards and posters, then all the postage of sending the materials to 20 theaters - well, the distribution costs start to become substantial.  And we have no idea if the film will earn enough revenue to cover these costs, we just sort of have to charge ahead and hope for the best - that's independent filmmaking for you.  At best, it's probably a zero-sum game. 

Still, I'm happy because it took a long time to get to this point, where Bill Plympton, an indie animator, could even have the name recognition to get an animated film with sex & violence, aimed at adults, to open in 20 theaters.  Even if we're playing a zero-sum game right now, there are the intangible benefits that he'll gain from doing interviews, and from the other publicity that the film will get.  I assume that this is something many Hollywood films face, just on a larger scale - no one knows if a film will make money in theaters, but even if it doesn't, there's DVD sales and iTunes money that could help balance the scales down the road. 

THE PLOT: A couple's big dreams give way to a life full of unexpected sadness and unexpected joy.

AFTER: The reason I mentioned the zero-sum game of indie film release is because it relates to this film, which suggests that life may be the biggest zero-sum game of all.  You work hard to succeed and try to do the right thing, but if you look far enough down the road, you might wonder why you're going to all the trouble.  If you just focus on the fact that someday you'll die and everything you do will be rendered pointless, you probably won't have the motivation to get out of bed.  

It's kind of like the story seen in "Gone With the Wind", coincidentally released just a few years before tonight's film.  If you're Scarlett O'Hara, you bust your hump finding a man and keeping your plantation running, only to find some silly army is out to torch Atlanta to the ground (whoopsie, sorry, SPOILER ALERT), or your man leaves, not giving a damn, and you wonder, "Why did I bother?"  But you did bother, you tried your best and you kept things afloat for a while, try to focus on the positives, you silly Southern belle.  

And in the end, it's all about the intangibles.  Perhaps death is the great equalizer, and after it all debts are considered paid, and all profits negated - but what happened along the way?  Did you find someone to love, did you help people when you could, did you remember to have fun and brighten people's spirits?  If at the end of your career, you can lay down your hammer, or your sword, or your pen, knowing that you somehow made a difference, then your mind will be at rest and your soul will be at peace.  That's the theory, anyway.

I tend to make a distinction between real philanthropists like Sam Simon, who made millions from co-creating "The Simpsons" and gave most of it away to charitable causes like animal rights organizations (any man who loves dogs and cats that much is OK in my book) and faux philanthropists like Bill Gates and (to my chagrin) George Lucas, who seem more like they got advice from their CPAs that donating money to wipe out a disease would also negate any annual taxes on their enormous incomes.  But I admit I don't have enough firsthand knowledge to make this call.

Anyway, Cary Grant's character fights in a small California town to keep his little newspaper running, even though the circulation doesn't seem to go up much with each passing year.  At some point, you've got to figure that he'll reach the end of his rope, but he just ties a knot in it and keeps on keepin' on, when any normal person would have found a job of the sort that pays money. 

The secondary "legal" theme carries over again, as tonight's film is partially concerned with the legalities of adoption.  How long is the waiting list?  How much money does the couple make, can they support a child?  Who determines whether someone makes an appropriate parent, anyhow?  

There's more here, of course, but adoption is part of the picture as we see a young couple get together and then endure life's ups and downs.  Part of that is the tragedy of not having a baby of their own, but this gets countered by the joy of taking care of an adopted child.  I can't really comment on the topic of child-rearing or how it's supposed to make me feel - I'm guessing that people who've gone through it, or hope to, are more firmly in this film's target audience.  

It seems like a lot of work - feeding schedules, sleeping arrangements, bathing the kid without scalding it, folding and pinning diapers - oh, yeah, those scenes take place sometime in the 1930's, so no disposable diapers, no baby monitors, no bottle warmers, etc.  There's a high learning curve, and if the guy who maintains your newspaper printing press knows more about it than you, you've got some catching up to do. 

The story of the couple is told mostly in flashback - we see them after a personal tragedy as they prepare to separate from each other, then through a series of phonograph records, the wife remembers the story of their time together.  I understand why the film is arranged this way, but I still don't have to like excessive flashbackery as a narrative device.  Anyway, NITPICK POINT: who the heck combines their record collection with their scrapbooks?  Was this a thing back in the 1930's, people stored their baby's pictures along with Victrola records so they'd remember things better with the right music?  I can maybe see it if a couple had one song they danced to and called their own, but I doubt most people are organized enough to make soundtracks for every part of their life - maybe the guy from "High Fidelity", but that's a special case. 

It's also easy to draw a connection to "It's a Wonderful Life" - this sort of feels like the precursor to that other very flashbacky film.  But because that one amped up the Christmas angle, it became a perennial classic over time, and this one seems to have been largely forgotten.  They both seem to cover some of the same territory, though.  Both also fell out of copyright, too, so it's a wonder why this one didn't also become a staple of every small broadcasting channel.

Also starring Irene Dunne, Edgar Buchanan (also Cary-ing over from "The Talk of the Town"), Beulah Bondi (last seen in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"), Eva Lee Kuney.

RATING: 4 out of 10 fortune cookies

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Talk of the Town

Year 7, Day 76 - 3/17/15 - Movie #1,976

BEFORE: I think that after today's film I'm halfway through the (M)Archie Madness tournament of Cary Grant films - I'm due to finish well before that silly series of college basketball games, anyway.  Plus I don't have to fill out any brackets or worry about how far Gonzaga will go this year - so I like my choice of pastime much better.  

THE PLOT: An escaped prisoner and a stuffy law professor vie for the hand of a spirited schoolteacher.

AFTER: These past few Cary Grant films have all featured legal issues - we had a female judge setting him up with her sister in "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer", and last night's film concerned itself with whether it's legal to poison your house's tenants (absolutely not).  Tonight the third member of the usual love triangle is a prominent legal expert, and he's up for a possible chair on the Supreme Court, if he can only keep his name out of the press while he rents a house in a New England town.  But as you might expect, that becomes impossible, since he rented a house where an escaped convict is hiding in the attic.

This is not your typical town, however, it's ruled by a corrupt judge and mayor, who determine the outcomes of trials before they've seen all the evidence.  So it's very possible that the oddly-named Leopold Dilj (Grant) is being convicted of arson and murder without some key elements, like, say, a body.  The more normally named Clyde Bracken is absent, and only an athletic medal of his was found in the rubble of the old mill.  I couldn't possibly imagine that he dropped it there himself, while setting the fire and then heading out for parts unknown.  Nah, couldn't be.  

Dilj eventually reveals himself (because even a hiding convict needs to eat) and passes himself off as the gardener, which gives him a chance to debate the finer points of law with a Supreme Court nominee.  The goal is to convince him that the law is not just paper or a set of ideas, it's a tangible work in progress that affects people's lives on a daily basis.  And that if it's not properly applied, well, then the law is an ass.  

The plot seems to reflect some of the early Hitchcock films like "Saboteur" and "The 39 Steps", only without as much going on the run to find the real villain, and more sitting around the house debating the finer points of the legal system.

The love triangle feels really tacked-on here, it feels like people fall in love just because they're near each other, and that just doesn't explain things well enough for me.  What makes an erudite professor have feelings for a simple schoolteacher who can't take dictation, can't get his fried eggs on to his breakfast plate, and can't even leave the house without slamming the door?  Also, she talks like an early inspiration for Lois Griffin from "Family Guy".

NITPICK POINT: I can maybe imagine the professor's black butler getting teary-eyed seeing him in his judge's robes - after all, this was made back when being on the Supreme Court meant something - but when he shaves off his beard?  That seems like a bit of a stretch.  Did his manservant have some kind of emotional attachment to his facial hair?  I'm not seeing a connection here.

Also starring Jean Arthur (last seen in "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"), Ronald Colman (last seen in "Around the World in Eighty Days"), Edgar Buchanan, Don Beddoe, Rex Ingram, George Watts, Tom Tyler, Glenda Farrell, with a cameo from Lloyd Bridges (last seen in "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid").  

RATING: 4 out of 10 spinning newspaper headlines

Monday, March 16, 2015

Arsenic and Old Lace

Year 7, Day 75 - 3/16/15 - Movie #1,975

BEFORE: Well, I booked a room in San Diego - my usual (dumpy) hotel seems to be going out of business, so good riddance to bad rubbish.  But how was I going to find a hotel similar in price, which helps keep the costs of my trip down, and therefore more profitable for my employer?  I searched Orbitz and Travelocity for a few weeks, but if deals are to be had there for July, they haven't showed up yet.

Enter AirBNB - questions of legality aside, I know it's there, and I decided to give it a try.  Found a room in a private house for just $100 per night, which is more than I usually pay, but cheaper than most hotels.  And even if I have to ship my Comic-Con merchandise to the UPS Store instead of a hotel, I can still make this work.  A comfortable bed in a private home is going to feel like grand luxury compared to what I usually endure, which is a hostel (and hostile) situation rife with slamming doors at all hours, people having arguments in the hall, very few amenities (not that I need many, but still...) and shared (but lockable) bathrooms.  I'll be staying a bit further from the convention center, but between taxis, buses and trolleys, I should be OK.  

The only lingering question, and this is quite appropriate for tonight's film, how does someone know
that they're renting a room in a safe house?  How do I know that the owner of the house is trustworthy, and not a serial killer?  Then again, how does she know that I'm not?  There just doesn't seem to be many checks in the system, that's all I'm saying.  It's not like the web-site had any way to run a background check on me, so I'm wondering if this system of matching up homeowners and vacationers has led to any criminal actions to date.

(M)Archie Madness continues, Day 10, and Cary Grant is looking quite a bit younger by now.

THE PLOT:  A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family.

AFTER:  The opening of the film depicts a fight breaking out at a baseball game between Brooklyn Dodgers and the NY Yankees.  This feels disconnected from the rest of the film, however, and also demonstrates clear outer-borough bias.  Is this meant as foreshadowing, to demonstrate that people in Brooklyn are more violent than Manhattanites?  I'd like to see some stats on this - are there more murderers per capita in Brooklyn than Manhattan?  

The IMDB tells me, however, that showing the Dodgers winning a game on Halloween is meant to demonstrate that they could only win under strange circumstances - however, back then baseball's regular season only lasted until September, so unless this was a World Series game, they shouldn't have even been playing a game in late October.  It's a strange scene even with an explanation.

I'ts very difficult to get the tone of black comedy correct - and I don't mean films like "Friday" or "Soul Plane", I mean dark tragi-comedies.  The benchmark for me are two films by the Coen Brothers, namely "Fargo" and "Raising Arizona", and the 2nd of those may even tend more toward slapstick comedy, so maybe it shouldn't even be regarded as a black comedy.  The two elements of tragedy and comedy have to be combined very delicately - it's not like mixing oil and vinegar together to make salad dressing.  But even if that analogy worked, the two things need to be put together in the correct proportion, or else one will overtake the other, or they'll just separate out. 

In the case of "Arsenic and Old Lace", I think it skews too much toward screwball/slapstick, but of course, that's what Frank Capra was famous for, in films like "It Happened One Night" and "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town".  It's hard to take murders seriously when people are knocking each other out with shoes, or dropping glasses when they get startled, or worst of all, excessively mugging for the camera.  Cary Grant reportedly agreed that the acting here was over-the-top, and called it his least favorite of all of his films.

There's also the feeling that maybe too much happens in one day in this scenario - Cary Grant's character gets married, learns that his aunts are killers, tries to have his uncle committed to a mental hospital, then his long-lost brother shows up, and that's just the first half-hour.  By the end of the thing he's bouncing around the set while tied to a chair, and it all gets quite ridiculous. 

Being set mainly in the living room of one Brooklyn house gives this the feeling of a stage play, and indeed it was a successful play before it was a movie.  However, in those days they didn't release the film version while a play was still selling tickets, so this film sat on the shelf for three years while the play enjoyed a nice long run.  The lodger who is described as looking like Boris Karloff was even played by Karloff on stage, creating an inside joke - however, he wasn't available for the film because he was still doing the play live each night. 

NITPICK POINT: any NYC cab driver worth his salt would not have hung around that house as long as he did, even with the promise of a big fare.  Or else he would have been more demanding in being paid for his time - either way, I don't see any cab driver being so passive and hanging around for hours, losing money when he could be out getting other passengers. 

I wished the film could have given more insight into the WHY of the killings, but I probably say that about a lot of films with serial killers in them.  What drove these two sweet old ladies to poison people?  Sure, they encountered many boarders who were lonely old men, but I'll wager that most people, given the choice, would rather be alive and lonely instead of dead. 

I wondered why the soundtrack featured what seemed to be an instrumental version of the band Slade's hit song "Run Runaway" - which wasn't released until 1983.  This didn't make much sense, until I realized that what I was hearing was a hymn titled "There Is a Happy Land", which inspired the heavy metal band's hit decades later.  I love stuff like this, which is quite relevant since Robin Thicke and Pharell just got sued for writing a song with the same melody as a Marvin Gaye song, and Donald Trump fired someone from "Celebrity Apprentice" for using the tune from "La Cucaracha" in a jingle, which he said wouldn't clear copyright.  Oh, I disagree, Mr. Trump, I don't think anyone holds the copyright on an old Mexican folk song, so it's probably fine to use in an ad.  But you know, don't research that point before you hold someone accountable or anything like that.

Also starring Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey (last seen in "Abe Lincoln in Illinois"), Jack Carson (last seen in "Mildred Pierce"), Peter Lorre (last seen in "Secret Agent"), Edward Everett Horton, Jean Adair, Josephine Hull, John Alexander, James Gleason.

RATING: 4 out of 10 suspicious dirt piles

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

Year 7, Day 74 - 3/15/15 - Movie #1,974

BEFORE: I saw something brilliant in a promo for the Encore Channel, which is running James Bond films this month, and having some kind of web-based poll to determine the best Bond film.  To promote this, they took footage from one Bond film, where Pierce Brosnan was chasing an enemy down a ski slope, and edited it together with footage from another Bond film, where Roger Moore's Bond was being chased BY and enemy down a ski slope.  The end result was a "Bond vs. Bond" sequence, ending with Bond escaping from Bond by jumping off a cliff and parachuting away.  Another promo had two Bonds chasing each other on speedboats, and I love this idea.  Make a feature-length film cutting together footage from 5 different Bonds, and I'd watch that.  Anyway, I've already determined through my unscientific process that the best Bond films are "Die Another Day", "Casino Royale" (the more recent one) and "Skyfall" in a 3-way tie.

Now back to the (M)Archie Madness tournament to discover the best Cary Grant film - it's Grant vs. Grant, aka Cary Nation, aka Archie Rivals.  It's day 9, but I still have another two weeks to go.  

THE PLOT: A high school girl falls for a playboy artist with screwball results.

AFTER: I suppose you could do the same thing with Cary Grant romantic comedies, at least the ones that are in black and white - edit together footage from several films of Grant romancing different women to make a completely new plotline.  This is possible because so many of the films hit the same notes, with love triangles and deceptions and blind infatuation.  The teen girl here being enamored with Grant's character seems to fall along the same lines as Betsy Drake's salesgirl being enamored with Grant's pediatrician in "Every Girl Should Be Married".  

It's one step forward and two steps back for feminism tonight, as an older woman plays a judge, but her younger sister is so infatuated with older men that her own career choices are determined by whatever man she happens to be falling for at the time, who happen to be the men who lecture at her school.  One day she wants to be an environmental scientist, the next an interior designer, and when she falls for an artist, who she literally envisions as her knight in shining armor, she can't think of a higher calling than being an artist's model and muse.  She comes from a family of judges and court officials, so of course they want her to practice law.

Meanwhile, the older sister who's a judge tried the very same artist in court earlier the SAME DAY (what are the odds?) after his flirting with several women in a nightclub led to fisticuffs.  A dust-up. A donnybrook.  You know, a real brouhaha.  It seems he's had several women posing for him, and they all find him hard to forget - must be his brushstroke technique, if you know what I mean.  So the older sister knows what he's all about, but when she realizes her younger sister has fallen for him, she realizes that discouraging their romance will only throw them together, and putting him in jail would only make him a martyr, so instead her family enlists him to date the high-school girl for real, figuring that once she gets what she wants, she'll tire of him within a few days and move on to something else. 

Most of the time you'd imagine that a teenage girl's family would discourage an older man from dating her, so I'm not sure I follow the logic, but hey, at least it's sort of a new approach.  In the meantime the much older Cary Grant has to do teen things like watch basketball games and go to picnics, where he takes part in sack races and three-legged races (remember them?) against the district attorney, who's sort of dating the judge - it seems like that would be a massive conflict of interest, doesn't it?  It seems like he's doing all this to impress the teen sister, but really he's competing for the attention of the older sister, because even though she's a professional career-oriented woman, she also eventually sees him as the knight in shining armor.  Umm, hurray for women?

It's true in geometry as well as romance films - a love rectangle is really just two love triangles put together.  That may be how they start, but it's not how they tend to finish.  There's a succession of love rivals all meeting up in a nightclub here, which I was sure would also end with a fight and another trial (disappointingly, it didn't) - that would have made perfect sense and created some symmetry with the earlier trial.  Instead there's an attempt by the D.A. to arrest the artist, and he ends up fleeing town, with a sort of a romantic resolution, but not really.  A lot of loose ends here, which seems rather sloppy.

Also starring Myrna Loy (also Cary-ing over from "Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House"), Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee (last seen in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"), Ray Collins, Harry Davenport (last seen in "Foreign Correspondent"), Johnny Sands.

RATING: 4 out of 10 birthday cakes