Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Wallflower (1948)

WALLFLOWER is a delightful comedy with a fresh, witty script from the pens of Henry and Phoebe Ephron. It's one of those relatively little-known films which turns out to be a wonderful surprise.

The Ephrons, parents of Nora Ephron (YOU'VE GOT MAIL, JULIE AND JULIA), adapted their script from a play. Stepsisters Jackie (Joyce Reynolds) and Joy (Janis Paige) are devoted to one another despite Joy's propensity to attract the attention of every man they see, leaving Jackie as the "wallflower" of the movie title.

When Jackie and Joy return home from college, Jackie is particularly disappointed when Warren (Robert Hutton) is on the verge of asking her to a dance, and then he gets an eyeful of Joy for the first time in years and forgets his interest in Jackie. The night of the dance Jackie decides to change her image, with unexpected results.

The plot is simple and short, running 77 minutes, but there is some terrific dialogue and interplay among the characters, particularly the girls' parents, who are wonderfully played by Edward Arnold and Barbara Brown. Some of the lines are laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are well-drawn; it's believable that Arnold's straight-laced district attorney loves his giddy but sweet wife (Brown), and I liked that he didn't condescend to her despite the fact that she's not always quite "with it."

I especially liked that although Joy causes Jackie problems, they still love each other, and Joy is genuinely happy when men start noticing Jackie. Janis Paige plays Joy with man-hungry gusto, and she gets to sing, too.

Jackie is played with verve by charming Joyce Reynolds. Reynolds' short career is a bit of a mystery. She moved up from small parts (including appearing as Ann Sheridan's kid sister in 1942's GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE) to lead roles in films such as JANIE (1944) and ALWAYS TOGETHER (1947), both with Robert Hutton; then her career seems to have abruptly ended in 1950. Reynolds turned 85 last year.

If the film has a weak link, it's Hutton, who is fairly bland as the would-be boyfriend, but since his character in some ways simply serves as someone other characters are reacting to, perhaps it doesn't matter too much that he's not especially memorable; the other actors make up for it.

At the time of the film's release, the New York Times critic wrote: "...may not be the comedy smash of the season or even come close to that classification, but it is frivolous and bouncy and there is a considerable amount of simple amusement in the scrambled nonsense it purveys... Joyce Reynolds is lively and sweet without being annoyingly cute as the bookish girl who turns on the charm."

The supporting cast includes Jerome Cowan and Ann Shoemaker as Hutton's parents. Don McGuire, who plays Joy's pilot flame Stevie, was also a screenwriter who was Oscar-nominated for TOOTSIE (1982).

The film doesn't have many sets, but kudos to the film's design and set decoration; the family's downstairs "play room" is rather unique.

WALLFLOWER is a black and white movie which was directed by Frederick DeCordova of TONIGHT SHOW fame. DeCordova films previously reviewed here: FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948) and BUCCANEER'S GIRL (1950).

WALLFLOWER has not had a video or DVD release. It's part of the library available at Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.

October 2018 Update: WALLFLOWER is being released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

November 2018 Update: My review of the Warner Archive DVD may be found here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This does sound like a charmer! I'll be on the look-out for the next time it comes 'round.


10:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm sure you'd like it, Carrie. :) I hope it's on again soon!

Best wishes,

10:38 PM  

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