Three classic movie duds

If you follow along with my classic movie reviews, you may think I have only good things to say about them. Truth is, I don’t usually choose to write up movies I don’t like. But I’ve recently seen three classic movies that were so bad I needed to point them out. I’ll look at each in the order I’ve seen them.

Chicken Every Sunday (1949)

Made after a book which can still be found in print (at least the book was good), this movie is a convoluted, drawn-out, syrupy mush that does not entertain. It only frustrates.
One good thing is that it has Alan Young, one of my favorite actors, but he’s stuck in this horrible, lily-livered role that has him meowing and crying his way through the movie, and it’s just sad.

Individually speaking, the actors are good. They’re talented, they can play good parts when they get them — but this movie’s script doesn’t have a single good part in it. It just plain sucks. Stay away from it. Did I mention it’s long and you’ll be sorry if you’ll watch it?

Platinum Blonde (1931)

This is one of Frank Capra’s earlier movies. Any movie by Frank Capra ought to be good, right? WRONG. This movie is a real stinker. The direction is off. The dialogue is slow. The editing sucks. The script is pathetic. There are long, dead pauses, and the chemistry between the actors is non-existent.

As if that’s not bad enough, the movie’s principal roles were miscast. We have Jean Harlow playing the part of an aristocrat. Excuse me? JH?! A platinum blonde best suited for the more tawdry, tough roles, playing an innocent, educated, mannered, high class lady?! That’s a riot… Every move Harlow makes is a verdict against the part she’s playing. Every sway of her hip convicts her, calls her a liar. She simply wasn’t made for that role. It’s the antithesis of her.

Then we’ve got some dude I’ve never seen before in the principal role. Who he is, I don’t know, and I don’t really want to know. He’s not likable, and he’s not meant for principal roles, end of story.

The movie’s saving grace is Loretta Young, who’s stuck as Gallagher, the office girl men see as one of them, until the dude in the principal part gets things right in the last scene. You’ve got to be kidding me… Loretta Young is NOT a man and you can’t look at her that way. Frank Capra was cuckoo to cast her in that part, sorry — although she made the best of it and was the one shining actor in the whole movie.

How can I put it? This movie stinks. Don’t watch it.

Second Chorus (1941)

Here we’ve got another example of a movie that should have been good, but it’s most definitely NOT. You’d have to get a really crappy writer and director to mess up a movie with Fred Astaire and Paulette Goddard. Guess what? They found both “geniuses” for this movie.

The plot is just pathetic. Two guys fight for the affections of one girl. Should be good, under the right circumstances, but it’s horribly complicated, and the plot devices are terrible and amateurish, the sort of stuff that made me cringe. The writing, the lines: yuck.

You know who else is in this movie? Rocky’s trainer — Burgess Meredith. He looks pretty much the same in 1941 as he did in 1976 for Rocky, and for the sequels. He was like George Burns. Looked old from his youth. And he’s unlikable in this movie.

There’s one scene that’s good in this movie, and it’s when Fred and Paulette dance together. Why couldn’t they do more of that throughout the movie? Why did they stick Fred Astaire, a dancing man, in a trumpet player role? Why do they have him trying to conduct an orchestra while dancing and playing the trumpet?

The movie is full of hair-pulling questions like these. It made me want to get a bunch of rotten tomatoes and start throwing them at the director and the other people responsible for making this idiotic waste of time.


John Loves Mary (1949)

“John Loves Mary” is a movie made in 1949, starring Ronald Reagan, Jack Carson and the husky-voiced Patricia Neal. The script was adapted from a Broadway play by the same name, originally written by Norman Krasna. I found the story charming, and wondered why I liked it so much, till I discovered that Norman Krasna also wrote the story for another movie I like, called “The Ambassador’s Daughter“.

The story goes like this: John Lawrence (played by Ronald Reagan), a GI returning from WWII, meets his love, Mary McKinley (played by Patricia Neal), who’s waited faithfully for him all those years. But he’s got a secret. While in England, he found and married the old flame of his army pal, Fred Taylor (played by Jack Carson), in order to bring her to the States and reunite her with him. You see, his pal saved his life during the war, and he wanted to return the favor.

Well, as soon as he returns, Mary wants to marry him. He’d love to, but can’t, since he’s already tied the knot, and needs to spend several weeks in Nevada getting a divorce. He tries to tell her, but can’t. Her father (played by Edward Arnold, who always seemed to get these sorts of roles) throws the weight of his senatorial position behind the wedding, and speeds all of the proceedings up at city hall. Hilarity ensues as both John and Fred scheme and connive to delay John’s wedding to Mary. All ends well, of course, but it sure is fun to watch what happens in the meantime!

Bonus: see Ronald Reagan in boxers, twice… It’s not often one gets to see an American icon and ex-president of the United States in his boxers…

More info:

  • IMDB
  • NYT
  • No listings available at Netflix or Amazon, unfortunately

Re-makes aren't as good as the originals

My Favorite Wife (1940) Move Over, Darling (1963)

Just finished watching “My Favorite Wife” (1940), and found it so much better than its remake, “Move Over, Darling” (1963). The thing is, I watched the 1963 version first, so I wasn’t prejudiced against it by the original. Yet after watching the original tonight, there is no doubt that I prefer it. Ligia and I were laughing out loud virtually through the entire movie. The gags, the lines, the acting, the action — everything was fresher and funnier. By contrast, I found the acting flat and the jokes overworked in the 1963 version.

Cary Grant and Irene Dunn shined again in this movie. They were a fantastic pairing in The Awful Truth (1937), and they put on a similar bedroom routine at the end of this movie, except this one’s absolutely hilarious. If you have a chance, pick up “My Favorite Wife“. They don’t make them like that anymore, and it’s really worth watching, if only for the comedy!


Gotta see Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Just stumbled onto the site for this upcoming movie, in theaters on November 10th, and I’m looking forward to it. The screenplay was written by Zach Helm and it was directed by Marc Forster. The really interesting thing about it is the screenplay, and kudos go out to Zach for a wonderfully quirky and original idea. Who’d ever think of coming up with a plot about a man whose life is literally scripted by a down-and-out writer? He hears her voice in his head as she writes his next actions, and it’s driving him cuckoo, but he can’t do anything about it. Should make for a really, really fun movie! Can’t wait for it to come out!