Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tonight's Movie: That Way With Women (1947)

Thanks to last week's Dane Clark tribute on Turner Classic Movies, I've had the chance to catch up with several of the actor's films for the first time. I started out with EMBRACEABLE YOU (1948), then caught HER KIND OF MAN (1946), and tonight's movie was THAT WAY WITH WOMEN (1946).

THAT WAY WITH WOMEN was a cute romantic comedy -- nothing especially special, but it had a solid cast and provided a diverting 84 minutes. The story, a remake of THE MILLIONAIRE (1931), is about a former automobile manufacturing tycoon from Detroit, J.P. Alden (Sydney Greenstreet), who is bored with his retirement in sunny Pasadena, California; on a whim J.P. buys a half interest in a gas station.

The other half of the gas station is owned by Greg Wilson (Dane Clark), a young man struggling to get a business going after wartime service. Greg has no idea of J.P.'s true identity, or that J.P. is the father of Marcia (Martha Vickers), the gorgeous young woman with whom Greg has a love-hate relationship.

J.P. and Greg attempt to get the gas station business off the ground while combating a protection racket, and in Greg's spare time he argues with Marcia, then dreams of her happily when they're not together. Greg and Marcia don't know that another man Marcia's been dating, Carter (Craig Stevens), is in cahoots with the protection racket. The storylines collide one day when J.P. and Greg are framed by the racket and sent to jail.

It's all pretty silly, but the film has its charms thanks to the engaging cast. Greenstreet and Clark are pros, and Vickers is self-assured and drop-dead beautiful, even when saddled with wearing a couple of strange-looking hats. (Most of her wardrobe, by Leah Rhodes, is lovely.) Alan Hale has a very good turn in a low-key role as Alden's best friend, a chef.

Martha Vickers was just 21 when this film was released. Her best-known role was Carmen Sternwood in the classic THE BIG SLEEP (1946). She had a small but effective supporting role in THE MAN I LOVE (1947). After leads in a couple more films after THAT WAY WITH WOMEN, her film career petered out in 1949, around the time she became Mickey Rooney's third wife. The marriage lasted two years; they had a son, Teddy, whose acting roles included Andy Hardy Jr. in ANDY HARDY COMES HOME (1958). Vickers acted on TV occasionally through 1960. She was only 46 when she died of cancer in 1971. Her work in the films cited here makes one wish she had been able to have a more extensive movie career.

The supporting cast of THAT WAY WITH WOMEN includes Barbara Brown, Ian Wolfe, Herbert Anderson, John Ridgely, Howard Freeman, and Joe Devlin. The film was directed by Frederick DeCordova.

A bit of trivia: the soundtrack includes Gershwin's "Embraceable You," played during a nightclub sequence; as noted in the top paragraph, that song was the title of a Dane Clark film the following year.

THAT WAY WITH WOMEN is not available on DVD or VHS.

TCM has the trailer here.


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