A mixed bag of fish, but worthwhile on the whole
6 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a crying shame. It had all the elements to be a really great comedy, but it never quite comes together. There is a lot of talent in the cast. And there are some good performances. There are some funny bits. But it never fully engages you, and by the end, you feel disappointed. It just seems like it should have been better.

Jack Benny has a nice character that suits him well. Gracie Allen has good material to work with, which isn't always the case in B&A films. I found Bob Burns' hick character to be quite amusing. The movie actually has a real plot, rather than being just a hodge- podge of scenes and performances. So why doesn't it all work better than it does?

Well, problem number one is indeed that plot. It's good for a movie to have a plot. Even a comedy needs a plot to provide some structure. But this movie commits the blunder of ultimately taking its plot too seriously. Eventually everything and everybody gets *so* wrapped up in the tribulations of the romantic participants that the movie forgets that it's supposed to be about the laughs.

And related to that is the problem of the romantic participants themselves. Maybe the intense focus on the romance would be an acceptable move, if it were a *good* romance. But it's not. *Everybody* loves the woman, and the one man that she picks to love back is a real nebish. He's about the least interesting person in the whole movie, and if she hadn't picked *him* out as the one she truly loves, you'd never even remember he was in the film. I don't know that this is really Ray Milland's fault. The character is written without any attributes. So in the end, you really don't see what she even sees in him, you really don't feel any chemistry between the two, you really are *not* particularly routing for them to get together in the end. So it just doesn't work.

But even aside from problems that distract from the comedy, there are problems with the comedy itself. While Gracie has many delightful Gracie-esque lines, on the whole I think Burns and Allen could have been used to better effect. Casting them as the sponsors of the radio program was a brilliant idea that could have and should have been exploited better. After all, the sponsor calls all the shots, and must be appeased and sucked up to. So there were enormous possibilities for Gracie to want absolutely ridiculous, irrational things for the program, and everyone would have to go along with it. Especially if George were playing some kind of supportive, my-wife-can-do-no-wrong role. As it is, George has absolutely *nothing* to do in this movie, other than get exasperated at Gracie at every turn. More room for comedy if he were having to try to somehow justify her zaniness.

Similarly, Bob Burns is used suboptimally. HIs problem is simpler and more concrete: he spends the *whole* movie searching for Leopold Stokowski to play his wacky instrument for him-- but we never get the payoff: he never actually *does* meet Stokowski. Surely some fun could have been had with that! I feel gypped that that never came to pass, after such a long setup.

Speaking of Stokowski, does anybody know what the first piece that he conducts is? The very chordy thing, before it breaks into the "Little" Fugue in Gm? While it is highly praiseworthy that the film includes something so cultural, it is truly inappropriate for them not to identify the pieces.

So, yes, this movie had a rather lengthy list of flaws, flaws that prevent the movie from achieving greatness. But it is still a rather fun affair, and is reasonably enjoyable. If you don't set your expectations too high, it's worth a watch.
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