Monday, June 28, 2010

Olivia Works for the Government

Our film this week is Government Girl.  None of us had ever seen it before, and I wish I could say it was a forgotten gem, but not so much.  This is a movie that wants to be screwball in the worst way, but only manages to be overdone and silly.  Olivia play Elizabeth "Smokey" Allard; Smokey (and her stupid name is never really explained. Childhood nickname. She doesn't know why) works for the War Department as a secretary, and ends up under the newly hired Ed Browne (Sonny Tufts). Of course, there is a funny meeting (he finds her crawling on the floor looking for her friend May's (Anne Shirley) lost wedding band, and, of course, he assumes she is the bride. And HE manages to steal May her her fiance's (James Dunn) hard won wedding suite (because they were 5 minutes late, and he is important), infuriating Smokey.

Everything here is overdone. Olivia does a pratfall, but the staging is WAY over the top.  She takes Ann Shirley out for dinner; the staging is farcical.  However, this isn't supposed to be a farce, and we know that actors like Ms. De Havilland and Ms. Shirley are fully capable of silly comedy.  This just can't quite cut it (and if you compare it to the similarly plotted The More the Merrier, well, there just IS no comparison)

Meanwhile, Smokey is dating Dana McGuire (Jess Barker),who has distinct political ambitions. And this is where the movie really begins to get spooky.  Jess Barker plays Dana as close to being psychologically abusive. When he tells Smokey (having canceled their date) that she WILL see him the following day, his voice radiates a threat that is more frightening and sexy. If we are supposed to at least understand what Smokey seems in this man, Mr. Barker was certainly not the actor to do it. Apart from white-bread good looks, he is nothing if not unpleasant.  We rather wanted to shower after he showed up.  

One interesting thing about the film is the "special effects". We noticed a credit for special effects in the film. Well, scenes of Smokey and Ed riding a motorcycle around Washington are clearly filmed IN Washington, D.C., while scenes of Olivia De Havilland and Sonny Tufts on the motorcycle clearly were not.  It is rather fun to see these shots of the District, circa 1943.  And a quick tip of the hat to Ann Shirley and James Dunn as the best friends of Smokey. Good to see them; we wished they had better parts. Here is a clip of the movie - watch for Agnes Moorehead in a truly bit part:



Next week, another film new to us all.