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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

REMEMBER? (1939)

Famous as the Golden Year of Golden Age Hollywood, 1939 also had it’s share of stinkers. Few stinkier than this brutally misconceived cuckold comedy that finds best pals Robert Taylor & Lew Ayres flipping Greer Garson as if she were housing property. Actually, she was property, property of M-G-M; hence this rush job after GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS made her an instant star at the alarming age of 35. Journeyman comedy specialist Norman Z. McLeod co-wrote & megged so give him most of the blame*, but Robert Taylor deserves credit for making an already unlikable character a positive paragon of self-centered upperclass entitlement. Lew Ayres does what he can as a slightly soused third-wheel, but Garson murders every line with her fluted tones and oddly unflattering look. (The fluted tones remained; the look triumphantly revised.) Perhaps nobody on the lot was second-guessing the dailies since producer, writers & director had turned out a big popular hit with TOPPER/’37, a Post-Mortem Screwball Comedy, of all things. Not this time. The film wraps with a bit of chemically induced amnesia. We should all be so lucky.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: While the set-up isn’t all that different from the Lubitsch/Hecht adaptation of Noël Coward’s DESIGN FOR LIVING/’33, that film's execution was far beyond the reach of these hack filmmakers. M-G-M was probably hoping for something along the lines of Joan Crawford in either LOVE ON THE RUN (w/ Gable & Franchot Tone) or THE BRIDE WORE RED/’37 (w/ Robert Young & Tone). Either way, they were aiming low.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Of course, the upside to being a journeyman comedy director like McLeod is that you’re apt to stay out of the way when you’ve got W. C. Fields or the Marx Bros.

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