Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Let's Make It Legal (1951)

LET'S MAKE IT LEGAL is a fun "divorce comedy," following in the footsteps of films such as PRIVATE LIVES (1931), AFFECTIONATELY YOURS (1941), and NEVER SAY GOODBYE (1946). 20th Century-Fox comedies of this era have a style I love, starting with the jaunty opening credits. LET'S MAKE IT LEGAL isn't a classic, by any means, but it's a pleasant diversion which provides a few good chuckles.

Miriam and Hugh Halsworth (Claudette Colbert and Macdonald Carey) have divorced after twenty years of marriage, but Hugh still hangs around the family home, tending his beloved rose bushes. Hugh would like nothing better than to reunite with Miriam, but that notion is threatened by the arrival of Miriam's old flame, multimillionaire Victor (Zachary Scott).

Miriam and Hugh's daughter Barbara (Barbara Bates) and her husband Jerry (Robert Wagner) have been living with Miriam, along with their baby daughter. Immature Barbara relies on her mother to care for the baby and do too many other things, and Barbara puts more thought into her parents' marriage than her own. Jerry would like Victor to quickly sweep Miriam off her feet so that Jerry can convince Barbara it's time for them to move out into their own home.

The charming Claudette Colbert is the main reason to watch the movie, and happily she's in a majority of the scenes. The rest of the cast is quite good. Bates (I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN) is stuck playing a character who's a selfish brat, rather than a loving wife and mother, but fortunately she's allowed to grow up a bit over the course of the movie. I enjoy Carey and Wagner, and Scott excelled at playing this type of slightly slimy but wealthy man.

The movie's beautiful hotel exteriors were filmed at the Miramar Hotel, which was also memorably used as a location in THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946).

The film's set decoration is wonderful. I'd love to have Miriam's house; I particularly covet her stove with built-in nightlight and the patio table outside the kitchen's Dutch door.

The supporting cast includes Marilyn Monroe as a beauty pageant contestant who hopes to land Victor herself. She's only in the movie for a few minutes but she makes the expected impact. Kathleen Freeman and Frank Cady also appear in the film. Joan Fisher is credited with playing Baby Annabella, her only screen credit.

This movie was directed by Richard Sale. The film runs 73 minutes. It was filmed in black and white by Lucien Ballard, who also shot last night's movie, THE KILLER IS LOOSE (1956).

The screenplay was cowritten by I.A.L. Diamond, whose writing credits include LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, SOME LIKE IT HOT, THE APARTMENT, and ONE, TWO THREE.

LET'S MAKE IT LEGAL has been released on DVD in a lovely print. Extras include the trailer and a commentary track by Robert Wagner. The package has Marilyn Monroe plastered on the front cover, despite the fact that she's a supporting character who is only in a handful of scenes.

This movie has also had a VHS release.

Claudette Colbert movies previously reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: TORCH SINGER (1933), SHE MARRIED HER BOSS (1935), BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE (1938), MIDNIGHT (1939), BOOM TOWN (1940), THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942), NO TIME FOR LOVE (1943), THE SECRET HEART (1946), TOMORROW IS FOREVER (1946), WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1946), and THE EGG AND I (1947).


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