Friday, April 13, 2012

The Mating Season (1951)

A man from a lower-class (John Lund) falls in love with a beautiful and kind girl who is also incredibly rich (the always glamerous Gene Tierney) . However, he is embarrassed by his background. When his hamburger stand-owning mom (Thelma Ritter) comes to stay, his wife mistakes her for hired help. Not wanting to embarrass her, the mom goes along with it. How long can they keep up with this charade?
            This is Thelma Ritter’s movie, no doubt about that. Even though she is fourth billed, underneath the less seen Miriam Hopkins.  But the characters are all connected to her in some way, and she is the center of the action.
            I don’t know why the title is The Mating Game. There is probably ten minutes of the film dedicated to actual courtship before the sudden wedding. The only thing I can guess it refers to is the complications of relationships. I don’t know, maybe I am just reading far too into it.
            Now, I previously refered to this being Thelma Ritter’s movie. Thankfully, she is her usual charismatic self, being both goodhearted and no-nonsense at the same time. Here, she is kind of  like a street talking Mary Poppins.
            Ah, but another great performance is from Miriam Hopkins. She is amazing as a mother-in-law from Hell: snobby, whinny and nagging.  She praises Mussolini’s health practices and orders Ellen (thinking she is a servant) to not call her by her by her first name. She and Ritter steal scenes whenever they are onscreen.
            As much as I like the performances, I felt that sometimes sugar-sweet sentiment got in the way of the humor. That’s not to say it wasn’t funny, but I do wish that it moved at a more quicker pace. Still, I would recommend this film, on the strength of Ritter and Hopkins.

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