Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tonight's Movie: A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941)

This seems to be the week for George Murphy movies! A few days ago I watched his last feature film, the docu-noir WALK EAST ON BEACON! (1952).

This evening was a much different film, released over a decade earlier, the screwball comedy A GIRL, A GUY, AND A GOB. Lucille Ball is the girl of the title, Edmond O'Brien is the guy, and Murphy plays the "gob," a Navy man. The film isn't the best of the genre, but it periodically has brief flashes of screwball greatness, and it makes for a pleasant way to pass the time.

Dot (Ball) is a working class secretary who has a classic "cute meet" with shipping executive Stephen (O'Brien) when they argue over seats at the opera. When Dot unexpectedly shows up the next day as Stephen's new secretary, she thinks she'll be fired, but he lets her stay on the job.

As Stephen gets to know Dot and her sailor boyfriend, improbably nicknamed Coffee Cup (Murphy), he realizes they're a lot more fun than his stuffy fiancee Cecilia (Marguerite Chapman). The quiet Stephen starts to come out of his shell when he spends time with his new friends. Eventually Stephen falls for Dot, but he's reluctant to be disloyal to Coffee Cup and declare his true feelings. Who will Dot wed?

The central premise of the film is both its strength and its weakness. The three leads are fun together, and their loyalty to one another is charming, such as when Stephen finds a way to give Coffee Cup $200 to marry Dot, even though he loves Dot himself. And yet, with both leading men genuinely nice guys, the audience feels as conflicted at times as Dot herself! There's a scene where Coffee Cup tenderly comforts Dot over ice cream bars that really makes the viewer wonder which man should be Dot's husband and which is her friend. And to top it off, viewers are cheated out of the chance to see Dot in a final romantic clinch.

One of the film's strengths is the supporting cast. Franklin Pangborn, in one of his patented prissy roles, plays a pet shop owner. A melee at the pet store calls to mind the famous Automat scene in EASY LIVING (1937). Pangborn later has a moment with a broom and a window which is quite funny, even if viewers know what to expect the minute he picks up the broom.

Dot's eccentric family life lightly echoes another Jean Arthur screwball, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938). Her parents are played by Kathleen Howard and George Cleveland.

The cast also includes Henry Travers, Lloyd Corrigan, Frank McGlynn Sr., Doodles Weaver, and Nella Walker.

This 90-minute movie was directed by Richard Wallace. It's interesting to note the film was produced by comedy great Harold Lloyd.

A GIRL, A GUY, AND A GOB is an RKO film which was released on VHS. It's also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.


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