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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

KEY TO THE THE CITY (1950)

Loretta Young & Clark Gable’s third & final collaboration* was this good-natured fluff about a couple of mayors who meet at a convention where they ‘click together like a key in a lock,’ according to the pic ad copy. It’s an opposites attract set up that has Mayor Young, conservative New England spinster*, finding a match in Mayor Gable, working class Pacific Coast guy’s guy. Any real issues are swept aside for the usual romantic misunderstandings and goofball adventures. Silly costume party?; comic lock-up in jail?; newspaper scandal?; tipsy marriage proposal?; All present and accounted for. A pity since the opening reels, briskly helmed by George Sidney, try for something a bit better, more in line with a Kate Hepburn/ Spencer Tracy battle of the sexes. But a bad case of the cutes and a directionless script leave it flailing, especially in what passes for a climax: fisticuffs for four. As sidekick to Gable, the great Frank Morgan takes a last bow, but it’s another old hand, Lewis Stone, who really shines, sharing an old vaudeville routine with Gable that has them gabbing away on the phone, unaware they’re in adjacent phone booths.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Young & Gable’s two other collaborations were THE CALL OF THE WILD/’35 and unacknowledged daughter, Judy Lewis/’35.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Billy Wilder’s bitter-pill of a political rom-com, FOREIGN AFFAIR/’48, shows the sort of imagination & daring KEY so studiously avoids. Jean Arthur’s spinster Congresswoman is a lot like Loretta Young’s character, but how Wilder ups the ante!, raising the stakes by sending Arthur off to find love & corruption in post-war Berlin. And while John Lund is fine as her compromised suitor, what a role it would have made for Gable . . . and what Gable would have made of the role!

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