Saturday, November 22, 2014

Looking Like an Old Maid

I'm a sucker for '50s movies, probably none more so than romantic comedies.

I know, I know, it's not a realistic world, but everything about it is so fabulous. The wardrobe! The nightclubs! The wooing!

Movieland was showing the 1953 classic "How to Marry a Millionaire" and while I no longer think that's a relevant topic for a film, you can be sure I was walking over there to see it for the first time.

The first movie filmed in CinemaScope's wide-screen process, meaning no should experience this film on their TV screen, no matter how big they think it is, it was big all right. Apparently exactly four other people in Richmond felt the same way and joined me at 11:00 on a Saturday morning.

To show off the movie's stereophonic score, it began with an enormous orchestra playing an overture, the camera panning side to side to take in all the musicians. What immediately struck me was that there were exactly four women in the entire orchestra: two violinists and two flutists, no doubt a sign of the times.

Only in the days before the sexual revolution could  you have a movie about three 20-something girls renting a ritzy apartment as a way to ensnare rich men and get married.

To my great delight, the movie began with Percy Helton (as the real estate agent), a character actor I recognized as the train conductor from "White Christmas," another classic '50s movie.

Bossy Lauren Bacall is the ringleader because she already married a poor guy, is now divorced and determined not to make that mistake a again. As she puts it, "Of course I want to get married again. Marriage is the best thing you can do." Pretty sure that's not still true.

Despite having to sell the furniture out of the apartment to subsist, the girls manage to have fabulous wardrobes for all their outings, whether to the mink department at Bergdorf's, the grocery store for cold cuts or the Stork Club to pick up oilmen.

All the expected '50s tropes were there: traveling by train, sending telegrams, women carrying muffs (Monroe carried her glasses in hers), cars without seat belts, people coming down with measles. A vastly different world, in other words.

And definitely a different mindset.

Bacall: If you wanna catch a mouse, you set a mousetrap. All right, so we set a bear trap. Now all we gotta do is, one of us has to catch a bear.
Grable: You mean marry him?
Bacall: If you don't marry him, you haven't caught him, he's caught you.

Like in "White Christmas," there were also dated references to political affiliations, in this case about Maine being a completely Republican state. Not so much these days.

Much as I enjoyed the corny story, I had a hard time getting behind any of the characters. Bacall was too bitchy (but so beautiful), Betty Grable was too dumb (but, oh, those million dollar legs) and I just don't care for Monroe's breathy delivery and put-on sensuality. But an older William Powell, that I could enjoy.

I could totally relate when Bacall's date tells her she's really a hamburger kind of a girl despite her protestations that she wanted a swankier lifestyle. I'd be the first to admit that I'm a cheeseburger girl.

Fortunately, I'm not looking for a rich husband. Although, if the right muff or train trip came along, I might be singing a different (albeit off-key) tune.


  1. Sorry babe, prolly not --- can't imagine theres anyone out there worthy of such a cool babe!!! xxoo