Monday, July 23, 2012

Jean is Impatient

Released the year before the end of World War II, The Impatient Years examines a topic in a comedic manner that, after the war would be looked at in a more serious vein.  Andy Anderson (Lee Bowman) is home on medical leave, returning to the home of his wife of one week (plus about 18 months).  He finds Janie (Jean Arthur), busy running her home, with her boarder (Henry Fairchild played by Phil Brown), her father (William Smith, played by the always wonderful Charles Coburn), and her not quite one-year old son! She exists on a very rigid schedule, one which her husband will not respect.  Within a day, the hastily wed couple are ready to divorce with equal speed, much to the disgust of Mr. Smith.  So, he recommends to the Judge (Edgar Buchanan) that he prevent the couple from divorcing until they can figure out WHY they married in the first place.

By 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives would look at the impact of the hasty wartime marriage on the returning vet. And while The Impatient Years certainly IS a comedy, there is a core of seriousness under the humor.  Both the Judge and Mr. Smith understand that the war is forcing decisions to be made to quickly.  They insist that our couple stop BEING impatient and try to rediscover their lost love for one another. 
It should be added that neither Andy nor Janie is totally in the wrong. He, back from combat, wants peace, wants to do what HE wants to do.  She, responsible for a house and small child, needs a schedule to get everything done.  Neither can understand the other's needs.  Neither even tries.  And thereby hangs the serious heart of the film.

Both Jean Arthur and Lee Bowman are excellent, and Charles Coburn, as always, shines as a loving father (who, in fact, is just meeting his son-in-law).  We also have comic performances from Charlie Grapwin (as a bellman) and Grant Mitchell (as a hotel clerk).  Sure, the film can be a tad silly, but at heart, it is a lovely story about two people who need fight their own way out of the War.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jean Takes a Letter

Carol Baldwin (Jean Arthur) and Helen Davis (Ruth Donnelly) run a secretarial school.  Unfortunately, most of their students seem to be of the same caliber as their current student Maizie West (Dorothea Kent) - no brains, but plenty of looks and a plan to make time with the boss.  Thus begins More Than a Secretary (1936), in which Jean Arthur ends up working AS a secretary when the man who hired (and fired) one of her students complains.  The gentleman in question is publisher Fred Gilbert (George Brent).  His publication, "Body and Brains", is a body-building magazine which regularly uses the face of an attractive model on the body of the exceptionally well-built (and particularly unattractive) Ernest (Lionel Stander).  Of course, the magazine is NOT doing well.  It takes our Jean to put it on the right track.

This is a very cute movie, thanks to the interplay between Brent (who is always wonderful) and Arthur (ditto).  Her Carol, at the start, is somewhat reminiscent of a character she will revisit in 1948 - Phoebe Frost in A Foreign Affair. But she quickly discovers her outer beauty, and becomes the perfect secretary.  Beauty and brains in the same office!  Amazing! And Brent manages to make Fred a bit of a dweeb, but still let you know why Carol is attracted to him.  The scene where he takes her out to a tofu dinner (!!!) is quite humorous.

It is fun to see Lionel Stander as well.  His Ernest longs for the day when his face adorns his own body on the magazine - alas, it seems it is not to be.  Many of us remember Mr. Stander from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and A Star is Born (as well as in Hart to Hart).  It is sad that his career in this country was abbreviated during the 50s and 60s thanks to the McCarthy hearings.

A few words are due, as well, for Dorothea Kent (as Maizie).  She is a hoot.  You can't help but like the opportunistic creature! One sympathizes with Carol's frustration, but I, for one, looked forward to her return.

We'll close with the moment in which Carol finally loses it with Maizie.  See you soon!