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slaytonf

Funny Ladies.

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Of the funny ladies up for acknowledgement tomorrow night, all of whom I admire, I have to say Jean Arthur is my favorite.  But if I were king of the movie programming world, I would choose a different movie than the one being shown.  The More the Merrier (1943) is a good movie.  Can't fault the cast, the script, the director, and forgive me for descending to the crass, Jean Arthur was as hot in that movie as any actress was in any movie at any time--not a shabby feat, considering this was a pre-bikini world.  (It just occurred to me what pictures a jokester would post in response.  Oh well.)  But there are one or two other of her movies I like better, like seeing her better in, and are underappreciated. 

The first is Too Many Husbands (1940).  An outing in the spouse-gets-marooned-long-enough-so-other-spouse-gets-on-with-his/her-life genre of movie.  This time it's the husband (Fred MacMurray) that disappears, and the wifey (Ms. Arthur) marries his publishing partner and longtime friend (Melvyn Douglas).  Return the husband, hijinks ensue.  It's cleverly written, and the two men do a fine turn as newly discovered frenemies.  But it's Jean Arthur who sparkles, playing the long-neglected wife first of a globe-trotting adventurer (MacMurray), and then of a company-obssessed publisher (Douglas).  Suddenly she's a princess with two knights tilting for her favor.  She relishes the situation so wantonly it's a surprise it got by the censors.  And the ending!--Wasn't it Preston Sturges who said you could get away with anything in a movie so long as it was a comedy?  Must've been right.

The other, and the one I think I'd choose to show is The Devil and Miss Jones (1941--and I know what a jokester would do with that.)  I guess it's due to sentiment, as this is the first movie I recognized Jean Arthur in.  The story revolves around labor unrest at a department store where Mary (Ms. Arthur) works, and whose main squeeze Joe (Robert Cummings) used to, until he was fired for organizing.  The owner, impatient with the incompetence of his hirelings, goes under cover as an employee to seek out and destroy unionizers.  Okay, I know it's an absurd premise, but it's a comedy, okay?  There are plenty of great scenes, including one at an organizing meeting where the clandestine nabob is portrayed as a used, abused, screwed, and tattooed worker; one at a police beach substation where Joe turns the tables on the cops practicing their intimidation techniques; and one in a shoe stockroom where Mary, thinking the nabob is a detective, struggles with herself and some shoes in trying to disable him to get a list of union sympathizers.  As good as the rest of the movie is, from the delightful and sometimes affecting writing, the witty direction that aptly complements it, to the supporting cast with familiar faces that form a line around the block--as good as that is, I say, it's Jean Arthur who mesmerizes and preoccupies the attention.  And she has one scene near the end where she performs a feat of acrobatics, leaping over a desk, that is jaw-dropping.  I've never seen an actress equal it--not even in today's super-heroine-studded movieland.  And I've never laughed harder at a movie, not even Monty Python.  

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My favorite Jean Arthur film is THE TALK OF THE TOWN. She more than holds her own between the two wonderful actors Ronald Colman and Cary Grant. She is very funny in it, but the film itself has a dark side and I think they were going more along the lines of screwball in their funny ladies theme.

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I've never really been a Jean Arthur "fan", yet not really a "non-fan". meaning I've always liked and enjoyed her as an actress in many films, but too, never either included her in any list of "comediennes".  

But she did handle comedy well, and I also agree that THE MORE THE MERRIER isn't the best example of her comedic acumen.

Sepiatone

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The Devil and Miss Jones used to be a TCM staple, an is one of my favorite screwball comedies. I think it was an RKO release? But that doesn't necessarily mean it's in the Time-Warner catalog. TCM hasn't shown it for five years! Someone else mentioned this film in a another thread recently, and I believe I gave a two-word response: "Another popover!" I love Jean Arthur in pretty much everything I've ever seen her in. She could be both the Barbara Stanwyck-type cynic/manipulator whose heart gets melted by the hero and also the overly-uptight rule-follower. And I found her equally funny and equally sexy in both guises. 

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Jean Arthur is my favorite funny lady of the studio-era (used to be Carole Lombard 10 years ago),  and my favorite comedy film is The Devil and Miss Jones.     My favorite film of hers would be Only Angels Have Wings but that has to do more with Howard Hawks then it does Jean (or even Cary Grant).

As for Too Many Husbands;  Jean is fine in this film but the continued feud between the two used-to-be-close males gets somewhat annoying after a while,  making the film mostly a one-note comedy.    

As for The More the Merrier and "Jean Arthur was as hot in that movie as any actress was in any movie at any time--":   Agree and considering Jean was 42 \ 43 when she made this film,,,,, she looked great and comes off so full of energy and youthfulness.  

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Jean Arthur had shaved off a few years in her bio and assumed most filmgoers would have forgotten she had been in silent films dating back to 1923 (where she was never really a star). She sometimes gave 1905 and other times 1908 as her birth years and so seems quite a bit younger once she finally hit stardom. Her age eventually caught up with her and after a 4-year hiatus returned for the marvelous A Foreign Affair (1948) in which was was actually 48 years old but claiming 40. She was a year older than co-star Marlene Dietrich but looked older. Of course Dietrich used to deny she had ever appeared in silent films! Mae West also famously lied about her age, shaving off 6 or 7 years.

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My mother liked Jean Arthur, and I have "The Talk of the Town" on DVD in my collection. She was Tom Tyler's leading lady in two FBO silent films, "Born to Battle" and "The Cowboy Cop", both released in 1926. I do know that multiple prints of "Born to Battle" exist two which are in the states, the third at Cinematek in Brussels, Belgium. "The Cowboy Cop" is at EYE in Amsterdam. Some film stills from both:

Born to Battle

BornToBattle1926-001.jpg

 

The Cowboy Cop

TheCowboyCop-001.jpg

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OMG that Frankie Darro picture! :o

 

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20 minutes ago, Fedya said:

OMG that Frankie Darro picture! :o

 

He was a cute little boy wasn't he. I understand that he idolized Tom Tyler, according to Tom's biography.

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It was nice to see MARION DAVIES included in this retrospective, but she did a lot more comedies than SHOW PEOPLE.

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True, that's TCM's go-to pic for Ms. Davies.  I like her in Blondie of the Follies (1932)

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23 hours ago, slaytonf said:

True, that's TCM's go-to pic for Ms. Davies.  I like her in Blondie of the Follies (1932)

Carol Burnett always said Lucille Ball was a great influence on her comedy. Lucille Ball always said Marion Davies was a great influence on her comedy. I'm not sure if anyone was a great influence on Davies' comedy. I think it started with her; she invented it as she went along.

Davies may have borrowed from contemporaries like Mabel Normand and Constance Talmadge and maybe from Mary Pickford (everyone borrowed from Mary Pickford), but Davies' comedy was mostly original and based on her own real-life personality. She found humor in everything.

There's a story in the trades where Davies was at a swanky dinner and sitting nearby was character actor Vince Barnett. He was famous (infamous really) for trying to upset haughty Hollywood ladies by punking them at the height of their glamour. As Davies, dressed to the nines, was eating her salad, Barnett yelled out something like, "And stop spitting those olive pits all over the floor!" Davies laughed so hard she nearly fell off her chair.

The other star Barnett could never punk was Marlene Dietrich, though he tried hard during the filming of Seven Sinners. Kind of like Tim Conway on the old Carol Burnett show, he tried everything to break her up while the cameras rolled but she never did. But as soon as the cameras stopped, she was practically on the floor laughing.

 

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I love Jean Arthur.  She's one of my favorites.  I know many find her voice off-putting, but I think it's adorable.  I really like The More the Merrier and Arthur looked great in the film.  She looked fantastic in that 2-piece dress she wears.  I do agree that The More the Merrier may not showcase her talents to their fullest, even though I believe she was nominated for an Oscar for this film.  I think The More the Merrier belongs to Charles Coburn though--he's hilarious.  One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Arthur gives Coburn the low-down on their schedule for the day. "At 7:00, I get up and start the coffee.  At 7:05 I am in the shower.  At 7:15am, I am getting dressed for work.  At 7:20 I am putting on my eggs.  At 7:25, I am eating my eggs and you are taking a shower...." Or whatever she says.  Talk about no room for error in that meticulously planned schedule! 

I also love The Devil and Miss Jones that film is hilarious and showcases Arthur's comedic skills.  I would have also scheduled Easy Living which I love and Arthur was funny.

Re: Lucille Ball day.  I don't know what they were thinking when they scheduled Forever Darling.  Of all the films of Ball's that could have been chosen, Forever Darling would have ranked very far down on my list.  The Long, Long Trailer would have been a better choice.  However, I would have even scheduled: The Affairs of Annabel, Yours Mine and Ours, The Fuller Brush Girl, Miss Grant Takes Richmond, Next Time I Marry... anything else other than Forever Darling.  

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2 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

I love Jean Arthur.  She's one of my favorites.  I know many find her voice off-putting, but I think it's adorable.  I really like The More the Merrier and Arthur looked great in the film.  She looked fantastic in that 2-piece dress she wears.  I do agree that The More the Merrier may not showcase her talents to their fullest, even though I believe she was nominated for an Oscar for this film.  I think The More the Merrier belongs to Charles Coburn though--he's hilarious.  One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Arthur gives Coburn the low-down on their schedule for the day. "At 7:00, I get up and start the coffee.  At 7:05 I am in the shower.  At 7:15am, I am getting dressed for work.  At 7:20 I am putting on my eggs.  At 7:25, I am eating my eggs and you are taking a shower...." Or whatever she says.  Talk about no room for error in that meticulously planned schedule! 

I also love The Devil and Miss Jones that film is hilarious and showcases Arthur's comedic skills.  I would have also scheduled Easy Living which I love and Arthur was funny.

Re: Lucille Ball day.  I don't know what they were thinking when they scheduled Forever Darling.  Of all the films of Ball's that could have been chosen, Forever Darling would have ranked very far down on my list.  The Long, Long Trailer would have been a better choice.  However, I would have even scheduled: The Affairs of Annabel, Yours Mine and Ours, The Fuller Brush Girl, Miss Grant Takes Richmond, Next Time I Marry... anything else other than Forever Darling.  

I agree. I remember FOREVER DARLING as a dud.

Another Jean Arthur comedy that doesn't get much attention is THE IMPATIENT YEARS.

And if they really wanted to showcase Marion Davies, CAIN AND MABEL would have been a good comedy talkie. She works really well with Clark Gable.

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48 minutes ago, drednm said:

I agree. I remember FOREVER DARLING as a dud.

Another Jean Arthur comedy that doesn't get much attention is THE IMPATIENT YEARS.

And if they really wanted to showcase Marion Davies, CAIN AND MABEL would have been a good comedy talkie. She works really well with Clark Gable.

I've never seen The Impatient Years.  I always look out for Arthur's films on the TCM schedule, but they always seem to be either The More the Merrier or Talk of the Town-- I like both of these films, but I've seen them and own them.  I'd like to see more of Arthur's work. I also love her in The Foreign Affair, but that's not really a comedic role. 

I also liked her in The Whole Town is Talking and More Than a Secretary.  She's also great in the Thin Man-esque The Ex-Mrs. Bradford

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8 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

I've never seen The Impatient Years.  I always look out for Arthur's films on the TCM schedule, but they always seem to be either The More the Merrier or Talk of the Town-- I like both of these films, but I've seen them and own them.  I'd like to see more of Arthur's work. I also love her in The Foreign Affair, but that's not really a comedic role. 

I also liked her in The Whole Town is Talking and More Than a Secretary.  She's also great in the Thin Man-esque The Ex-Mrs. Bradford

Really speedy? Not a comedic role, ya say?!

I dunno, but every time I watch what was up to then Miss Prim and Proper Congresswoman Jean have a few too many in that nightclub and then begin to lead all the soldiers from various occupying counties in a rousing chorus of "I-O-Way", I think it's pretty darn funny, anyway.

And that would be just one of the many scenes in this film where she has me chuckling.

(...and, I'll bet Billy Wilder thought it a comedic role)

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7 hours ago, Dargo said:

Really speedy? Not a comedic role, ya say?!

I dunno, but every time I watch what was up to then Miss Prim and Proper Congresswoman Jean have a few too many in that nightclub and then begin to lead all the soldiers from various occupying counties in a rousing chorus of "I-O-Way", I think it's pretty darn funny, anyway.

And that would be just one of the many scenes in this film where she has me chuckling.

(...and, I'll bet Billy Wilder thought it a comedic role)

Yes I think it's a comedic role but in that droll Bill Wilder manner.

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10 hours ago, Dargo said:

Really speedy? Not a comedic role, ya say?!

I dunno, but every time I watch what was up to then Miss Prim and Proper Congresswoman Jean have a few too many in that nightclub and then begin to lead all the soldiers from various occupying counties in a rousing chorus of "I-O-Way", I think it's pretty darn funny, anyway.

And that would be just one of the many scenes in this film where she has me chuckling.

(...and, I'll bet Billy Wilder thought it a comedic role)

Yes I forgot about that part, that part was pretty funny.  I guess on a whole, the film isn't slapstick--not overt comedy?

The only thing about this film I don't like is Jean's Swiss Miss hairstyle.

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1 hour ago, speedracer5 said:

Yes I forgot about that part, that part was pretty funny.  I guess on a whole, the film isn't slapstick--not overt comedy?

The only thing about this film I don't like is Jean's Swiss Miss hairstyle.

 I also love the bit where Arthur gets the black market dress that does not fit. A comedy for grownups. And Dietrich's singing of 'Black Market" is worth the price of admission all by itself. Great film!

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