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Saturday, February 4, 2012


‘Even light little comedies with her have never made under a million & a half domestic.’ That’s David O Selznick, convincing himself to cough up the bucks needed to get Claudette Colbert to star in SINCE YOU WENT AWAY/’44, his first production since GONE WITH THE WIND/’39 and REBECCA/’40. And here’s what he was talking about. Colbert’s a department store clerk who’s treating herself to a long-delayed trip to Paree. And she’s specifically leaving her dull steady, Lee Bowman, a real butter-and-egg man, behind. Off on her own, she’s an easy target for the surface charms of bachelor pals Robert Young (deeply insincere) & Melvyn Douglas (tart & supercilious). It’s a workable set-up (they all might start playing DESIGN FOR LIVING/'33!), but the jokes & situations are awfully forced & formulaic. And some dope @ Paramount decided that the French born Colbert shouldn’t be able to speak French. Halfway along, things pick up when they all take off for a ski resort in Switzerland. Megger Wesley Ruggles seems happier as the tone relaxes from farce to romance, and even the gags start to work better. Going on location may have a lot to do with it, too. The real sunlight, snow & breath clouds really help to set the scene, and though much of the skiing is the usual ‘process’ stuff, that’s a real bobsled heading toward Claudette. And the film throws off some real sparkle when Douglas & Colbert discover something to like in each other while skating in tandem. It hardly saves the pic, but they sure can skate.

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