Monday, May 25, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951)

This afternoon I marked the birthday of Jeanne Crain by watching THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER (1951) for the first time.

Jeanne plays Kitty, a model who chances to meet the marriage broker, Mae (Thelma Ritter), when their purses are mixed up in a shop.

Mae takes a liking to Kitty and helps give her the fortitude to dump the boyfriend she's just learned is married. Mae then sets up Kitty with handsome Matt (Scott Brady), an x-ray technician.

Things are going along swimmingly for Kitty and Matt until Kitty learns about Mae's profession. Despite how much she likes Matt, Kitty resents that matchmaking was done behind her back and fears Mae is pushing Matt into a commitment.

All manner of complications ensue, but eventually Mae's pal Doberman (Michael O'Shea) sets Kitty straight, telling her how much Mae cares about her and starting Kitty, Matt -- and Mae -- on the path to a happy ending.

The film was pleasant enough to stick with, but frankly not what I was expecting; I was surprised to find this film's tone as serious as it was. I was anticipating a more lighthearted romantic comedy, but instead the script by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, and Richard Breen veers toward a more somber storyline with occasional flashes of humor; what's more, at 103 minutes it goes on quite a bit longer than it should.

Ritter has the lion's share of the screen time, and her story has more than a bit of of pathos, as we learn that her now-widowed sister (Helen Ford) had stolen her husband decades previously. Mae struggles to eke out a living, though she's clearly appreciated by the people she helps.

While Ritter is always good, I was again surprised to find the story weighted so heavily toward her character, rather than being more balanced between the title characters; for much of the film, model Kitty is an afterthought, and Matt even more so.

Crain's Kitty is brittle and edgy, though ultimately softened by love for both Matt and Mae. It's a good performance, if not a particularly appealing one compared to Crain's usual more sunny screen persona. Brady is handsome and charming but doesn't have a chance to show much character depth.

O'Shea, in a smaller role, manages to break out of the large cast as his character moves to the forefront of the story in the final minutes. O'Shea -- who incidentally was long married to Virginia Mayo -- similarly made a good impression in supporting roles in films like MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY (1947) and SMART WOMAN (1948).

All in all, THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER was worth checking out, but despite names like screenwriter Brackett and director George Cukor attached to the project, in the end it didn't particularly win me over.

The supporting cast includes a number of familiar faces, including Jay C. Flippen, Nancy Kulp, Zero Mostel, Maudie Prickett, Helen Ford, John Alexander, Frank Ferguson, Joyce Mackenzie, Tommy Noonan, and, in a very small role, Edna May Wonacott , who played little sister Ann in SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943).

The movie was filmed in black and white by Milton Krasner.

THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER is available on DVD-R from Fox Cinema Archives. It's a nice, clean print. There are no extras on the disc.


Blogger barrylane said...

I have seen The Model and the Marriage Broker and despite some wonderful moments it disappointed, mainly because I was hoping Scott's part would develop further, cast, director and studio spoke to a fine opportunity, and he delivered, but it still did not take him to the next level. I was always a fan.

3:51 PM  

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