Monday, March 03, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Doughgirls (1944)

In THE DOUGHGIRLS newlyweds Arthur and Vivian Halstead (Jack Carson and Jane Wyman) have a reservation for a honeymoon suite in crowded wartime Washington, D.C. However, from the moment Arthur and Vivian arrive in Washington, their hotel room is something akin to Grand Central Station. Vivian can't seem to get rid of her friends Edna and Nan (Ann Sheridan and Alexis Smith), who are also newlyweds, and before long the suite is also home to a Russian sergeant (Eve Arden) and a hammy radio reporter (Alan Mowbray). The chaos builds as it develops that Vivian, Edna, and Nan's marriages may not be legal...

This movie is exceedingly silly, but fairly diverting, as the viewer keeps wondering what nutty thing will happen next. The film's origins as a stage play are apparent, as most of the action takes place on one set, the hotel suite. With the large cast of wacky characters coming and going, it has a bit of the feel of THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER -- which Sheridan had starred in on screen two years previously -- with a touch of THE MORE THE MERRIER on the side. The cast plays it quite broadly, with lots of double-takes, but the film has enough amusing moments to make it worthwhile.

Edna and Nan's husbands are played by John Ridgely and Craig Stevens. Alexis Smith and Craig Stevens married in real life the same year they played newlyweds in THE DOUGHGIRLS; they were married for nearly 50 years, until Smith's death in 1993.

The cast also includes Charlie Ruggles, Regis Toomey, Irene Manning, and John Alexander (Uncle Teddy in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE).

Having recently seen Jane Wyman's elegant performance in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, it was something of a shock when she opened her mouth in THE DOUGHGIRLS and a high-pitched squeak came out. Her airheaded chorus girl is the antithesis of the Wyman we think of from the later years of her career. She and Carson were frequent costars; they played a more interesting couple the previous year in PRINCESS O'ROURKE.

The movie was directed by James V. Kern. It runs 102 minutes.

THE DOUGHGIRLS isn't available on DVD or video, but it can be seen in the library of TCM. Click here to request that TCM add the movie to its schedule.

The trailer can be seen on TCM's website.

November 2015 Update: THE DOUGHGIRLS is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

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