Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I MARRIED AN ANGEL

Sexless? Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald
I MARRIED AN ANGEL (1942). Director: W. S. Van Dyke.

In Budapest the irresponsible playboy and supposed banker, Willy (Nelson Eddy), is about to celebrate his 35th birthday with a masquerade ball. His disapproving associate, whom he calls "Whiskers" (Reginald Owen of The Good Fairy), thinks it's time Willy were married, and arranges for his shy secretary Anna (Jeannette MacDonald) to be invited to the party. His other, sexier secretary Marika (Mona Maris), suggests Anna go dressed as an angel, primarily to make fun of her. Willy doesn't know quite what to make of Anna, but later he dreams of an actual angel named Brigitta, who looks just like Anna, descending from heaven to marry him. But there are complications. I Married an Angel was based on a Rodgers and Hart musical, and it undoubtedly worked much better on the stage where its satirical aspects could be expressed with a degree of sophistication. Reworked as a vehicle for the essentially sexless duo Eddy and MacDonald, it simply comes off as weird and generally unmemorable. The picture picks up in the latter half, especially during a scene when Brigtta makes one tactless remark to her guests after another, assuming honesty is the best policy (but even this has a certain ugliness to it, as the targets are singled out for their age and appearance). MacDonald does become sexy in a nightclub scene, after Brigitta has fallen under the influence of a devilish baron (Douglass Dumbrille) and works her way scintillatingly through the crowd. I've no doubt most of the Rodgers and Hart songs were eliminated, but we still get the lovely title tune, the amusing "Willy Marry Me," and a snappy duet-dance between MacDonald and Binne Barnes [Three Smart Girls] where the latter counsels the former to keep a "Twinkle in Your Eye." Wright and Forrest contributed one or two numbers as well. Unfortunately, both MacDonald [The Cat and the Fiddle] and Eddy [Phantom of the Opera] have a tendency to over-sing everything, clubbing the songs into submission. Their acting is fine, however, with MacDonald (although too old for the role of a virginal secretary) being as adept as the shy young woman warily approaching her boss at the party as she is as the semi-malicious character in the nightclub sequence. Owen, Maris and Barnes are fine, but Edward Everett Horton is wasted. Esther Dale and Gertrude Hoffman make their mark in smaller roles At one point Eddy stands on a balcony and watches scenes of "Brigtta" inexplicably performing in such operas as Carmen -- making one wonder if the actress was hoping to be tapped by the Met. This was the last -- and probably least -- collaboration of the famous duo.

Verdict: Rodgers and Hart deserved better than this. **.

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