Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Here Comes the Groom (1951)

They don’t make 'em like they used to. This zany Frank Capra-directed comedy offers, among laughs, wisecracks, a wrestling catfight, and a few tunes. It all ends in a climax at the most lavish outdoor wedding imaginable, with the type of inevitable ending you see a mile away, but is winning enough that you don't care.

Bing Crosby stars as a Pete, a reporter writing about war orphans in France.  When he has to return to the States, he decides to adopt two of them, but discovers that he can only keep the children if he gets married within five days. Pete's not worried, however, because has a girl in mind: long-time fiancée Emmadel (Jane Wyman), whom he decides to surprise by arriving on her doorstep with the tots without notification. She has a surprise for him in turn: tired of waiting for her long absent beau, she has become engaged to her wealthy boss Wilbur (Franchot Tone). The wedding date: in five days.
How can I describe this film properly? It feels familiar, kind of a Philadelphia Story rehash, complete with the unfortunate implication that the heroine needs an ex to tell her that she doesn't love the man she's going to marry WITHIN A WEEK! Despite the typical old movie symptom of values dissonance, I found it enjoyable. None of the songs are classics, with the exception of an aria from Verdi’s Riggoletto, sung by a blind orphan girl, and the only example of pure Capracorn in the movie. Only one, “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,”  is a real earworm, the kind that never ever will leave your head ever. 

Crobsy did his typical laid-back-wisecracker shtcik, and does it well, and Tone was amicable and charming as the doomed fiancee who tempts fate by inviting Crosby to stay at his immense estate. 

But the leading ladies blew them both out the water. Jane Wyman was amazing,the usually prim and somber actress lending herself swimmingly to comedy; she rages, wrestles, trips, make a fool of herself, and sings a little, too, all the while holding on to her dignity, smarts, and stubbornness. Alexis Smith, as the maid of honor and the smitten "kissing cousin" of Wilbur, is also a hoot, guided by Crosby into a Pygmalion-like transformation from dry, insecure blue-blood to a confident whistle-worthy head-locker. What could have come off as condescending portraits of women whose end goals are nabbing men, become amusing characters through the spunk, charisma, and energy of the two ladies.

Not as well known as it should be, I thought the movie was very good and well worth watching. It's nice to see a little fluff once in a while, and this one was a fine, frivolous, funny, and fun puff of fluff.

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