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

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Ronald Colman and Jean Arthur
THE TALK OF THE TOWN (1942). Producer/director: George Stevens.

Leopold Dilg (Cary Grant) has been falsely accused of setting fire to a warehouse and killing the watchman, so he breaks out of jail. He hides out in a house that has just been sold to law professor Michael Lightcap (Ronald Colman), who shows up a day earlier than expected while Nora Shelley (Jean Arthur) is fixing things up. Wanting to be able to feed Dilg while he's hiding in the attic, Nora takes a job as Michael's cook and secretary, while Leopold comes downstairs and introduces himself as the gardener. This strange trio will have to contend with the authorities as they tear the town apart looking for Dilg, who is right under their noses. Meanwhile, which man will Nora ultimately wind up with? You may not find yourself caring all that much, because the script for Talk of the Town is, frankly, beneath the talents of its three wonderful leading players, all of whom are at the top of their game (although one could argue that Grant is a little too insouciant considering the desperate situation he's in).The movie begins with a very cinematic opening depicting Dilg's escape, but then there's an abrupt change in tone as what started out as a melodrama turns into a screwball and borderline slapstick comedy; then there's another shift into melodrama. This might have worked in some of Frank Capra's pictures, but this is an uneasy blend of some genuine laughs with a more serious underlying tone, and the two never quite jell. Glenda Farrell is less obnoxious than usual as the girlfriend of Clyde Bracken, played by Tom Tyler [The Phantom] of serial fame. Edgar Buchanan, Leonid Kinskey, Charles Dingle and Rex Ingram [The Thief if Bagdad] have smaller roles. George Stevens also directed Woman of the Year and many other, much better pictures.

Verdict: Tries to be Capraesque, but fails -- although the leads are all great! **.


angelman66 said...

Wow, what a cast, and I always assumed this WAS a Capra film, maybe because of Jean that was a girl with an unmistakeable voice!! But you're right, Bill, the film does not sparkle as it should, especially with Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and all those great old character actors.

William said...

I'm a great admirer of the talents of Jean Arthur, although there are those who find her voice grating. I think it works just right for her, that perfect mixture of comedy and a certain poignancy.