Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Tender Trap

Year 9, Day 50 - 2/19/17 - Movie #2,550

BEFORE: It's the end of the Debbie Reynolds chain, at least for now, and it coincides neatly with the start of a (mostly) Frank Sinatra chain.  And somehow I'm 50 movies into the year already - geez, it feels like New Year's was last week, though I know it wasn't, and already the year is 1/6 over.  Time flies when you watch a movie a day, I guess.

Here's what's on tap for TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, 2/20:
7:45 AM Penny Serenade (1941)
10:00 AM The Perils of Pauline (1947)
12:00 PM Period of Adjustment (1962)
2:00 PM The Philadelphia Story (1940)
4:00 PM The Pink Panther (1964)
6:00 PM The Pirate (1948)
8:00 PM A Place in the Sun (1951)
10:15 PM Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
12:45 AM Poltergeist (1982)
2:45 AM Possessed (1947)
4:45 AM Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Chalk up another four films for me: "Penny Serenade", "The Philadelphia Story", "The Pink Panther" and "Poltergeist".  I watched "Poltergeist" in the theater when I was 14 and it scared the bejeezus out of me.  Never again.  But another 4 out of 11 brings me up to 85 seen out of 220.  I think I know now what my final tally will be, but I'm not sure about the percentage - I'm hovering now at about 38%.

THE PLOT: Charlie Reader, a successful theater agent, is also successful with young ladies.  One day he is visited by his old friend Joe, who is married with three children.  Joe falls in love with Charlie's girl Sylvia while Charlie spends his time with young actress Julie.

AFTER: And what great insights about romance do we get from this film from 1955?  Oh, just that any eligible bachelor in New York City, provided he's a good dresser, has a high-profile, well-paying job and knows his way around the city's clubs and restaurants will simply have women calling him ALL DAY long to spend time with him.  He never even has to walk his own dog, clean his apartment or buy his own cheese or whitefish - various dames will do all that for him.  See, if you find a girl whose father owns a deli, and take her out to dinner once in a while, you'll have all the whitefish you want, if you know what I mean.

Sinatra's Charlie has so many dames interested that he doesn't even has time to date them all - there are women calling who he "hasn't even gotten to yet".  Only in the movies, right?  I'm not encouraged by what this says about 1950's urban women, namely that they're all desperate, or slutty, or enterprising, too sophisticated to get married, or some combination of those things.  It's funny that they all have their reasons for dating this guy non-exclusively, and just too much of a coincidence, if you ask me.  Because for them ALL to have the same plan, which is to not HAVE a plan, then that suggests they're all working together, or they all read the same book on relationships or something, or they formed an organized movement to game the system and collectively get men to buy them dinner every night, and we all know that wasn't the case.  You see, if each one focused on just one man, then the game would be up too soon, but if they all SHARE the eligible bachelors in NYC, they can keep this gravy train running indefinitely.

It's a little easier to break this down and assume that all of the single people want to get married, and all of the married people miss being single, but that doesn't really tell the whole story, but some women like Sylvia have relegated themselves to the fact that marriage probably isn't in the cards for them, so they should just juggle a certain number of men with casual relationships, and that will serve as a fair substitute, as long as they can provide a service in return, whether that's walking dogs or cleaning apartments or bringing cheeses.  You don't expect a single man in 1955 to do his own grocery shopping, right?  That would be ridiculous, because it was considered "women's work" at the time.  (Their words, not mine...)

But Charlie's new client, Julie, throws his world into chaos when she won't play the game and have dinner with him.  She also won't sign a long-term contract for a Broadway show, because her personal schedule demands that she be married by March 12, even though she hasn't met the right man yet.  Charlie thinks she's a lunatic, but since she's also the one girl who won't go out with him, a story contrivance demands that he only wants what he can't have.  But unlike his other girlfriends, she wants to know how many other girls are in the rotation, and then demands to be the only one.

This is all background material for setting up a standard love quadrangle - and as you may remember from geometry class, a quadrilateral can be divided into two triangles.  Here we have the love triangle where both Charlie and Joe are interested in Sylvia, and both Sylvia and Julie are interested in Charlie.  Joe is married, which complicates things, and Julie is demanding, which does the same.   And thus do writers paint themselves into a corner, the love quadrangle is established with no way of getting out of it, other than to wait for the paint to dry.  (Sure, you can metaphorically cut a hole in the wall, but the waiting is safer, it just takes longer.).

It seems that all four Debbie Reynolds films this week tried to wrap things up with either a party, or a brawl, or a combination of both.  "How Sweet It Is!" ended with a big confusing scene in a Paris brothel, "The Mating Game" had a big fight on the farm between the taxman, the family and the three rapey farmhands, and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" had a big party in Denver that introduced European royals to the locals, which quickly turned into a dance-off and food fight.  Tonight there's an engagement party for Charlie and Sylvia, which apparently was a big blow-out filled with theater people and musicians, only we never see it, just the aftermath of the wrecked apartment, and people with hangovers.  Seems like a missed opportunity.

But it turns out you can't be engaged to two women at once, as Charlie eventually finds out, when the women find out about each other then that forces a resolution of some kind, even if it's not to anyone's liking.  And as with Molly Brown, Charlie spends some time in Europe, because sometimes the best way to fix a problem is to run away from it for a year or so.  Come to think of it, that's a horrible moral lesson.  Anyway, I don't buy it, because after a louse like Charlie two-times a woman, I doubt that disappearing for a year is going to change her opinion of him.

Also starring Frank Sinatra (last heard singing in "What Women Want"), David Wayne (last seen in "How to Marry a Millionaire"), Celeste Holm, Carolyn Jones (last seen in "The Man Who Knew Too Much"), Lola Albright, Jarma Lewis, Tom Helmore, Howard St. John, Joey Faye.

RATING: 4 out of 10 pearl onions

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