When John Van Druten ‘opened up’ his trim ‘three-hander’ for the movies, he turned the biggest hit of his career into a very ordinary romantic-comedy, with little trace of the play’s purported enchantment. Eleanor Parker, in a failed bid at catching the mannerisms & charm Margaret Sullavan brought to the original stage production, plays a young actress just getting over a casual affair she took too seriously. Still licking her wounds, real love is the last thing she’s looking for. But it’s just what she finds when gal pal Eve Arden dumps a nice soldier boy in her lap when a better prospect unexpectedly turns up. Arden, normally the most reliable of players, gives a desperate sort of perf, lunging at quips she’d normally toss off to twice the effect. Blame megger Irving Rapper who has his cast plant both feet before delivering. The freshest thing in the film is Ronald Reagan, top-billed in a Triple A project, at last! It’s not his best work, but as a decent guy who’s comfortable in his skin (and even in the kitchen), he knows how to relax and still make his mark.
DOUBLE-BILL: Irving Rapper muffed the stage magic of two more classics in film adaptations of THE CORN IS GREEN/’45 and THE GLASS MENAGERIE/’50. On the other hand, he had much better luck turning Louis Verneuil’s flop ‘two-hander,’ OBSESSION, into the deliciously over-ripe film ‘three-hander,’ DECEPTION/’46.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Two tell-tale Production Code moments to look for. Watch for a quick cut of Reagan going back to his hotel when it’s obvious he really spent the night . . . and not on Parker’s daybed. No doubt, a sop to top censor Joseph Breen. And what’s the deal with Kent Smith’s producer? His part, the casual lover who dumps Parker, is only spoken of in the play, but note how holding to Production Code niceties make him seem either gay or, perhaps, an asexual chum, giving off a vibe Parker misreads. Intentional or no?