Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tonight's Movie: The Reformer and the Redhead (1950)

THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD is a lightweight piece of fluff mixing politics, a lion, and the real-life Mrs. and Mrs. Dick Powell.

Mrs. Powell, better known as June Allyson, plays Kathy, a zookeeper's daughter with the proverbial redheaded temper. When her father (Cecil Kellaway) is fired from his longtime post by the boss (Ray Collins) of a political machine, she enlists the help of a mayoral reform candidate, Andrew (Powell).

Andrew must overcome Kathy's temperamental moments, interfering lions, and his own inclination to cut an expeditious but not very moral political deal in order to arrive at a happily ever after ending.

It's all kind of silly, but the film has its pleasures, including the first teaming of Powell and Allyson since their 1945 marriage. (Prior to marrying they had both appeared in the 1944 film MEET THE PEOPLE.) They have a nice chemistry; Powell constantly wears an "Isn't she cute?" expression which one suspects wasn't acting. The couple is pictured at the right celebrating a birthday on the set.

Powell also has good chemistry with David Wayne, who plays his law partner and campaign manager; they do a nice job trading quips and wisecracks. Powell also gets some extended screen time providing comic reactions as he none-too-willingly interacts with lions, tame and otherwise, and he has a pretty cute moment bottle feeding newborn goats.

1950 was a bit of a strange film year for June Allyson. She costarred with Powell in an additional film, the interesting RIGHT CROSS (1950), but instead of looking her nicest, MGM played up the tomboy aspects of her characters in both these movies and gave her the worst haircuts and dowdiest wardrobes of her MGM career.

Aside from my quibbles over Allyson's appearance, she has an interesting character, playing a talkative girl with initiative who quickly captures Powell's attention when she suggests they skip a few dates and go right to a kiss to see if they have chemistry. Needless to say, they do! In fact, Powell and Allyson managed to work quite a lot of kissing into the movie.

The film is made with typical MGM gloss, including a smooth opening credits theme by David Raksin, composer of the themes for LAURA (1944) and THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952). The black and white photography was by Ray June.

The supporting cast of this 90-minute film includes Robert Keith and Kathleen Freeman. Spring Byington provides the voice of Kathy's mother.

This film was directed by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, from their own script, which was based on an original story by Robert Carson.

THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD is not out on DVD or VHS. It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is available on the TCM website.

All in all, the movie goes down pretty easily for fans of the lead actors, but it's missing that special something which takes a comedy to the next level and makes it truly memorable.

June 2013 Update: This film has now been released on DVD by the Warner Archive.


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