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Saturday, February 11, 2017

JULIA MISBEHAVES (1948)

Absurdly misconceived ‘daring’ marital comedy for Greer Garson; an obvious, if unsuccessful attempt to liven up her stuffy image. Garson, unable to do wrong during the war years, was unable to do right post. The fatal pivot began with ADVENTURE, the ‘Gable’s Back and Garson’s Got ‘Em’ surprise flop of '45. Then, two years off before DESIRE ME became the M-G-M’s one & only pic to go out without a directing credit. (George Cukor, Jack Conway & Mervyn LeRoy did the deed. Not seen here, it has its fans.) Now in free-fall, Greer, hiding under an unbecoming new hair-style, reunites with comfy co-star Walter Pidgeon to try wacky comedy. It’s a sort of Irene Dunne reject, with Garson as a bit actress in London who never got around to divorcing her husband, now invited to the wedding of daughter Elizabeth Taylor* whom she gave up as a toddler. Naturally, this wild mother-of-the-bride upsets all the relationships, but what a sour edge all the jokes have. The film didn’t instantly end her career, as M-G-M did for Greta Garbo in the similarly painful TWO-FACED WOMAN/’41, but the handwriting was on the wall.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Taylor’s rep has her going straight from enchanting child to gorgeous grown up. But at 16, she can look pretty awkward, with stooped posture and a big bulging forehead. Two years on (see FATHER OF THE BRIDE/’50) she’s fully emerged from chrysalis.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Journeyman contract director Jack Conway, in his swansong, really phones this one in. At M-G-M since 1925, even his good films would have been better under someone else.

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