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Sunday, February 13, 2011

INVITATION (1952)


This women’s programmer from M-G-M is THE BIZARRO HEIRESS. Remember Bizarro Superman, where all the roles & rules go topsy-turvy? That’s pretty much what happens here, only the switcheroo comes at the expense of THE HEIRESS/’49, William Wyler’s expert adaptation of Henry James’ WASHINGTON SQUARE. But in this contemporary version, the character traits get swapped. Dorothy McGuire is the painfully shy heiress, but now she’s got the bum ticker Dad had in the original. And Louis Calhern as Dad isn’t chasing handsome fortune hunters away from his daughter, but eagerly pursuing them . . . er, him. That’d be Van Johnson as the fortune hunting love interest. His character also goes head-over-heels. Head-over-heels in love . . . and with his invalid wife. There’s even a disappointed third wheel, no longer a dithering optimistic aunt, but mannish Ruth Roman who’s gone vicious after being passed-over for a rich gal with a bad mitral valve! Playwright Paul Osborn worked up a lot of stage-worthy dialogue for the actors to hang on to, and they all seem to be having a whale of a time. But Lawrence Weingarten’s small budget makes for a drab production, especially with Gottfried Reinhardt megging with all the flair of a ‘butter & egg man.' A snazzier hand on the helm, say Douglas Sirk, John Stahl or M-G-M’s very own Vincente Minnelli could have teased so much more out of this set-up.

CONTEST: Van Johnson slips in a cross plug for another ‘52 M-G-M release. Name the plugged film and how he does it to win our usual prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of the NetFlix DVD of your choice.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: As noted above, THE HEIRESS/'49.

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