Talk of the Town (1942)

Talk of the Town (1942)This movie features two of my favorite actors: Cary Grant and Ronald Coleman. I thought I saw every one of the Cary Grant movies till I discovered this one at Netflix. When I added it to my queue, I had no idea Ronald Coleman was in it. Imagine my surprise when I started watching it!

Jean Arthur rounded out the cast. While I don’t much care for her looks or voice, I have to appreciate her comedic talents, which had me laughing the whole movie through. Her scenes with Ronald Coleman at the start of the movie are some of the best comedy I’ve seen in a long time.

The plotline goes like this: Leopold Dilg, played by Cary, is unjustly accused of burning down a decrepit old factory and supposedly causing the death of the foreman as well. Only things aren’t that way. Knowing he’s going to get a dud trial, he escapes from jail and hides in a house just outside the town. The house belongs to Nora Shelley (Jean Arthur). She agrees to help him hide out in the house, but unfortunately she has already rented it to Michael Lightcap (Ronald Coleman).

Lightcap is a distinguished professor and dean at an unnamed Boston law school. He arrives early, and hilarity ensues. Meanwhile, the town is whipped into a frenzy by the factory owner, who burned down the factory himself while in cahoots with the foreman. Leopold hides out at the house while disguised as a humble gardener, and works out a plan with Nora to convince Lightcap to take part in his defense. I won’t spoil the rest of it for you. All I’ll say is that we gave it five stars at Netflix.

It was a treat to watch these three talented actors carry scene after scene so elegantly. Cary looks a bit funny as the town activist. It’s always a odd to see him in roles that change the image we’ve come to know and love, even temporarily. I didn’t think I’d gotten so addicted to his classier roles, but there I was, wincing as he put on ordinary clothes. Grant’s darker side also comes through at the start of the movie, and for a few tense seconds, he’s so believable we’re not sure what to think.

The movie also makes a powerful commentary on social justice, and the importance of adhering not only to the letter but to the spirit of the law. The ongoing debate between Leopold and Lightcap throughout the movie serves to outline the differences between these two sides very well. I was glad to see true justice prevail, and to see Lightcap’s metamorphosis from dry scholar to lawman. The truly wonderful thing is that this commentary is all accomplished while the audience is kept laughing. That’s a testament to the great direction of George Stevens and the wonderful story by Sidney Harmon and screen adaptation by Dale Van Every, Irwin Shaw and Sidney Buchman.

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