Tonight I continued this year's informal Robert Montgomery Film Festival and watched him in the entertaining romantic comedy ONCE MORE, MY DARLING, which was one of several movies Montgomery also directed in the latter part of his film career.
Attorney Collier Laing (Montgomery) served with distinction during WWII and is enjoying a burgeoning film career, though his acting talent is questionable. (When Collier asks a family friend how he was in a recent film, the reply is "Tall. Very tall.") Collier's pleasant life is disrupted when he is recalled to service in the Army Criminal Investigative Division and tasked with tracking down a man smuggling jewels out of occupied Germany. To smoke the criminal from hiding, Laing must become close to Marita Connell (Ann Blyth), a wealthy debutante with whom the bad guy was romantically obsessed.
Marita takes one look at Collier and, despite their age difference, falls head over heels in love. Soon the bemused Collier has turned from being the pursuer to the pursued.
This film is a "satisfying comedy" (per Leonard Maltin) which is "nicely played" (Stephen H. Scheuer). It has interesting characters, unique plot angles, atmospheric location shooting, and some laugh-out-loud funny moments.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is the bantering relationship between Collier and his elegant, accomplished mother, who is also an attorney. Mrs. Laing doesn't understand why her son prefers to get up before dawn to report to soundstages and wants him to return to the family law firm -- and hopefully also marry and provide her with grandchildren in the near future. Mrs. Laing's deadpan reactions to meeting the whirlwind Marita provide some of the film's funniest moments. Jane Cowl, who plays Mrs. Laing, was a Broadway playwright (SMILIN' THROUGH) and actress who made her sound film debut -- her first film in over three decades -- in ONCE MORE, MY DARLING. Sadly, Cowl made only three more films, released in 1950-51, before dying of cancer.
Film noir veteran Charles McGraw appears here in an amusing turn as Marita's protective chauffeur. John Ridgely, who played John Garfield's close friend in PRIDE OF THE MARINES, plays a federal investigator with whom Collier has an antagonistic relationship. The Laings' maid, Mamie, is portrayed by Lillian Randolph, whose career lasted for four decades.
I think my only quibble is that more character development was needed for the hyperenergetic Marita and the lead couple's relationship. It would have been nice to have the characters slow down and have some scenes that were a little more serious, but that doesn't come until the last scene. In fact, it's curious to note that Montgomery creatively avoided showing a final clinch between Collier and Marita -- was this perhaps due to sensitivity over the age difference? The film actually was a little more up front acknowledging the actors' age gap than other films of its era; in fact, one of the advertising slogans is "Man About Town Meets Girl About Nineteen."
Montgomery conveys a good sense of "place" with locations in the Greater Los Angeles area including a studio lot, upscale homes, and the Hotel Bel-Air. There are also some interesting shots of late '40s Las Vegas, although it appears the only actors to leave California were doubles for the leads.
A photo gallery can be viewed at the Earl of Hollywood website, which is equally enthused about the film. Another reviewer: "Although it would be going a bit far to call Once More, My Darling an overlooked gem, it is surprising that this genial and very amusing little comedy isn't as well known among fans of older movies... Flaws are more than made up for by the above-average dialogue, the aura of fun that Montgomery's direction imparts and the fine cast that has been assembled for the picture."
ONCE MORE, MY DARLING runs 94 minutes. It was filmed in black and white.
It's not available on video or DVD. My great thanks to Carrie of Classic Montgomery for making it possible for me to see it.