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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

MAISIE (1939)

Delightful, talented, good-lookin’ & largely wasted; Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with Ann Southern. (Lucille Ball had similar hiding-in-plain-sight troubles before chucking big screen for small.) Southern's vibe was something between Joan Blondell’s tough good-girl and Jean Arthur’s wry sentiment, plus she could really sing though not in this MAISIE start-up pic, first of a series of ten. She’s a show girl, stuck in Hicksville, who talks her way into a job on a farm run by Robert Young for absentee owner Ian Hunter. Actually, he’s due for a rare visit to the place, hoping to make a fresh start on his failing marriage to Ruth Hussey. Too bad she’s a rotter, thru & thru; something Southern immediately spots. There’s a lot of dramatic action packed into the film’s 85 minutes, and a melodramatic third act right out of left field. (Hint: there’s a murder trial.) Involving stuff all the same, with a cast that’s fun to be around. Maisie never did settle down, there’s new man in every film.

DOUBLE-BILL/LINK: Southern got herself an A-pic lead in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s A LETTER TO THREE WIVES/’49. OR: Hear more MAISIE in her radio incarnation here: https://archive.org/details/AdventuresOfMaisie

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Southern was a stylish/sophisticated singer, perfect for Kurt Weill’s LADY IN THE DARK/’54 which she did as a tv spectacular. You can find the original tv cast album on Spotify. (Avoid the direct tv track recording of same.)

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