Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Tonight's Movie: The Groom Wore Spurs (1951)

THE GROOM WORE SPURS is a silly yet agreeable light romantic comedy about a lawyer who marries a movie cowboy.

Ginger Rogers plays attorney Abigail Furnival, who is smitten by the screen image of singing cowboy Ben Crane (Jack Carson), so much so that she agrees to marry Ben after knowing him for just a few hours.

Abigail soon realizes that the marriage was part of a plot on Ben's part to get out of a gambling debt, and she also quickly learns that Ben hates horses and can't sing. Abigail's dejected at first and plans to have the marriage annulled, but then she decides to move into Ben's home, where she gets rid of his slovenly housekeeper (Mira McKinney) and starts putting his life to rights...

The movie's nothing particularly special, but it's a fast-paced 80 minutes, and I always enjoy Ginger Rogers. The movie has a few good chuckles and a couple nice supporting performances, notably by future producer Ross Hunter as the paramour of Abigail's roommate Alice (Joan Davis). The film also has some nice period flavor, including good stock footage of Las Vegas circa 1950.

Stanley Ridges gives gangster Harry Kallen some interesting shading, and James Brown is quite attractive in a small role as Ben's pilot. The always-reliable John Litel plays a D.A., while Victor Sen Yung plays Ben's butler.

Sure, it might be hard to believe that a bright attorney could also be so naive about both movie illusions and romance, but Ginger does a good job walking a line and making the character believable. Abigail is a tough go-getter with stars in her eyes, and it works. Armed with legal precedents, Abigail's not afraid to go toe to toe with either a gangster or a nasty housekeeper; at the same time, she's a woman with ideals who dreams of love.

Carson is stuck playing a buffoon in too many scenes as the phony cowboy, but there are a few moments where Ben's inner decency is allowed to shine through. If there had been a few more such moments the film would have been stronger.

Back when Ginger was already a big star and Carson was working his way up through the acting ranks, they appeared in several films together, including STAGE DOOR (1937), HAVING WONDERFUL TIME (1938), VIVACIOUS LADY (1938), CAREFREE (1938), and FIFTH AVE GIRL (1939). They were finally paired up in THE GROOM WORE SPURS, their first film together in over a decade.

The film was directed by Richard Whorf, who as an actor costarred with Jack Carson a decade earlier in BLUES IN THE NIGHT (1941). The black and white cinematography was by J. Peverell Marley.

THE GROOM WORE SPURS was released by Universal but is now in the public domain. The DVD I got from Netflix was released by Acme, the public domain wing of VCI. For a couple of minutes I thought I'd been sent the wrong movie, as strangely both Rogers and Carson are missing from the opening credits. I assume the names were there originally and somehow were dropped from this particular print! As for the movie itself, I've seen far worse public domain prints. I was also fairly impressed with Acme's print of DISHONORED LADY (1947) earlier this year.


Blogger Robby Cress said...

Sounds like a fun little film. It's too bad Netflix doesn't have even more of these titles that are apparently in the public domain available for their streaming service. I'll have to keep my eyes open for this title to pop up or see if my library has a copy.

8:13 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

The Groom Wore Spurs is a Carson family project. His brother wrote the story.

11:37 AM  

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