THE BIG STREET (1942). Director: Irving Reis.
"Love just gives you one room, two chins, and three kids!"
A simple-minded busboy named Little Pinks (Henry Fonda) develops an infatuation for a gold-digging singer named Gloria (Lucille Ball) and basically becomes her dog and slave after she loses the ability to walk. At one point he agrees to push her by wheelchair from Manhattan to Florida (although they manage to hitch a lot of rides in the back of trucks)! This absorbing (if at times draggy) comedy-drama is certainly not for all tastes, and some may find that the mix of Damon Runyan characters such as Nicely Nicely (who later turned up in Guys and Dolls) with a study of unrequited love doesn't always jell, and in truth the Runyanisms often come close to crowding out the main story. Still for those who are game The Big Street is often very funny and just as often quite touching. Although he's hardly perfect casting, Fonda manages to do a nice job as Pinks, and Lucy gives one of her best performances – a really lovely job – as Gloria, managing to be both bitchy and sympathetic at one and the same time. A lot of great character actors shore up the proceedings, especially Agnes Moorehead as a neighbor and friend of Little Pinks. Louise Beavers and Ray Collins are also especially memorable. For those who simply find the movie to be too far-fetched, think of it as a Damon Runyan fable, sort of his lighter take on Of Human Bondage. The movie is not just a study of pathetic devotion and love, but of friendship, as we see how all of Little Pink's pals – even if they think he's crazy and masochistic to do so much for the ungrateful Gloria – pull together for him because they love him and realize how much he loves Gloria. A very unusual movie, and a real tearjerker as well.
Verdict: Grab those hankies and love Lucy!***1/2.