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Thursday, March 31, 2016

PILLOW TO POST (1945)

Unexpectedly decent! Positively okay! Not bad! We're damning with faint praise, but on these WWII romantic farces (Boy Meets Girl/Boy Loses Girl Thru Silly Misunderstanding/Boy Gets Girl Via ‘Hilarious’ Technicality) ‘decent’ rather than ‘painfully forced’ is nothing to sneeze at. Maybe because the plot is built on real issues (women in the workplace); or because Ida Lupino & William Prince pair up so nicely (bound by the housing shortage); or even because director Vincent Sherman is out of his element and lets events ride, the film doesn’t dumb things down too much in a search for easy laughs. Instead, the set-up sticks Lupino on the road, selling oil-drilling equipment for her dad’s firm; unable to find a place to stay other than an Auto-Court that’s only open to military couples. Hunting up a groom-for-a-night, she finds nice Lieutenant Prince who goes along with the idea only to find his commanding officer (Sydney Greenstreet) renting the next unit. The gag quota gets filled out with a very pregnant neighbor and a tall, handsome oilman Lupino flirts with to make a sale. Louis Armstrong & Dorothy Dandridge show up for a number and Willie Best, usually stuck playing the worst sort of ‘darkie’ humor gets a shot at something slightly less demeaning. Don’t knock him for being so good at his job.

DOUBLE-BILL: Director Sherman and Lupino can be seen at their considerable best in the heavy-dramatics of THE HARD WAY/’43. OR: For a similar story from the same period about a sham marriage, this time between a shy traveling salesman and an unmarried pregnant country girl afraid of her ultra-strict papa, there’s Alessandro Blasetti’s superb FOUR STEPS IN THE CLOUDS/’42. Remade with Keanu Reeves & Anthony Quinn to small effect as A WALK IN THE CLOUDS/’95.

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