The Egg and I (1947)
Our great family friend, Leslie, introduced us to the marvelous Betty MacDonald when we were pre-teens, starting with The Egg and I and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and flourishing out from there. The Egg and I was so funny and so cherished that I was really reluctant to see the movie version (when I learned there was one), particularly since it had the guy from My Three Sons playing Bob, and that seemed wrong to me (forgive me; I was only 11-ish). This film was directly responsible for my enduring lack of enthusiasm for Claudette Colbert and was probably the first time I ever considered that a book may be better than the movie. Consider that I have always been a comparatively lazy reader (compared to my mother and sister, that is, but they were voracious and unnatural), so that is saying something.
Now every time I see this picture, I have to pretend I never read the book and I can enjoy it just fine. I was quite wrong about Fred MacMurray not being right for Bob. His clueless enthusiasm is delightful. Once you get past the first half hour of Betty's madcap adjustment to rural farm life, complete with stupidities like sawing herself off a tree limb, falling in the pig pen, fighting with the cookstove, hyuk hyuk hyuk, it gets into a very good rhythm.
The Story: Bob informs Betty on their wedding night that it has always been his dream to run a chicken farm and that he has bought them one (isn't that great?!) in the middle of nowhere on the Olympic Peninsula ("No running water, no Frigidaire, just plenty of elbow room!"). The farm is a wreck, the neighbors are wacky, and the animals uncooperative. The wackiest neighbors of all are the Kettles, sweet, workhorsey Ma (Marjorie Main) and shiftless Pa (Percy Kilbride), with their zillions of children and animals in the kitchen. A very young Richard Long plays the unlikely eldest son of the Kettles, a non-farming type who yearns to go to college.
There is a complication in the form of a beautiful, wealthy neighbor called Harriet (Louise Allbritton) who runs the fancy farm and who can converse with Bob about livestock and such (while giving him the once-over). What are you going to do: it's basically a farce.
It's a fine vehicle for Fred MacMurray and Marjorie Main, but Claudette Colbert is no Betty MacDonald.
Ladies They Talk About (1933)
I get a special feeling when I see the early Warner Bros. opening credits with stars posed in character — chewin' gum, givin' a copper the hairy eyeball, lightin' a cheroot — and those are just the girls. It's a good feeling, make no mistake, and all the better when the picture involves women's prison.
That's where we find Barbara Stanwyck about 20 minutes into Ladies They Talk About, a great tale of two kids from the same hometown, one the deacon's daughter (Stanwyck), now a gun moll, and the other a populist running for district attorney, who was the son of the town drunk (Preston Foster). Nan Taylor is arrested for helping some of her thuggier friends (such as Lyle Talbot) rob a bank and is sent to prison, thanks to her hometown acquaintance, David Slade (Foster). In a weak moment (it was the smallest of moments) she had confessed her involvement in the robbery to Slade — just when he was about to get her released — so he wound up turning her in and testifying against her.
Slade loves Nan, but wants her to reform in prison. She does not quite feel the same way. In the slammer, though, she makes fast friends with Linda (Lillian Roth) who shows her the ropes; who to avoid and who's on the level. Nan settles in fine, but soon learns that the two goons who pulled the bank job have been arrested on a different charge and are now serving 20 years in the men's ward on the other side of the wall. She agrees, like an ass, to help the men escape in an absurd plan that could do nothing but fail, which it does. Nan is caught and gets an extra year added to her sentence. For pretty good reason, she blames the extra time on Slade.
When Nan gets out, she seeks revenge. That's where you'll have to pick it up.
It's classic pre-Code Warner Bros. excellence. Highly recommended.
I'll do just about anything a movie tells me to do. Unless it tells me wrong...
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