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Eleanor Parker..No Actress for Comedy


kaleman
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After watching "A Millionaire for Christy" with it's forced comedic screwball style 15 years too late,I have come to the conclusion Eleanor Parker could not do comedy roles. She fell flat on her face along with the rest of the cast, especially Richard Carlson.In fact, did she ever do a light comedy after this fiasco her then hubby produced? I believe not.For that I give thanks.

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I didn't think that it was that bad, although I did have the thought that it looked cheaply done. That seems to be a commonality with Bert Friedlob's films and it was especially apparent with the two films that Fritz Lang made for him.

 

Lang once commented on how he brought in the two titles for a total of $350k adding "including the producer's phony overhead."

 

I think that Parker could be well up to the task in the right material - she's quite amusing in MANY RIVERS TO CROSS as the backwoods woman who is set on snagging frontier man Robert Taylor.

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I thought *A Millionaire for Christy* was terrible ! Absolutely wretched ! In fact, I couldn't take it any more after the aborted wedding scene and turned it off. I keep wanting to like Eleanor Parker, but it's difficult work. I usually think of her as "whiney" and "clingy", but that's not fair of me, since my perception is based upon only two films I've seen her in : *Between Two Worlds* and *The Man with the Golden Arm*. Two films is not really enough to make a fair assessment of an actor, and anyway, she can't help it if she's directed to be whiney and clingy.She's just doing a good job, that's her character. But still, she's annoying in those films.

 

So, I decide to give her another try with this Christy movie. But it's so dumb, so full of stupid cliches, and so unfunny, I found it unwatchable. Eleanor Parker can't help the dopey script, that's not her fault, but boy was it dumb. You're sent as a messenger from a respected law firm to deliver some very important information, and you stupidly pretend to faint because you're observing advice from your silly " man hungry" co-worker? And when you "recover", you decide to explain this essential legal message from the bathroom? Come on - I know these kinds of comedies are based on misunderstandings , that's what "screwball" is all about, but this is so contrived and fatuous it just tries my patience.

 

Doesn't matter, I bet I can tell you how it ended. After various zany situations, in each one Parker trying to tell MacMurray about his inheritance, Fred realizes it is Eleanor Parker he loves, not his fiance, who ends up with the original best man who liked her in the first place. Fred and Eleanor get their 23 million pesos and live zanily ever after. Pul-eese !

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I liked A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY.

 

But...it would've been vastly improved if:

 

1. Gig Young had played the Richard Carlson role.

 

2. Mitchell Leisen directed the picture.

 

and

 

3. Carole Lombard had still been alive to do the Eleanor Parker role. Or at least, they could've given the part to Lucille Ball.

 

In short, the script and Fred were great. But most of the elements were badly assembled. This could've been a classic that revived the screwball comedy format.

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> Doesn't matter, I bet I can tell you how it ended. After various zany situations, in each one Parker trying to tell MacMurray about his inheritance, Fred realizes it is Eleanor Parker he loves, not his fiance, who ends up with the original best man who liked her in the first place. Fred and Eleanor get their 23 million pesos and live zanily ever after. Pul-eese !

 

Spoilers:

Well, we know from the billing that they are the romantic leads and will wind up together. But they do not get the money in the end...and when the final fade out occurs, they are on the run...which leads me to think that there was a probably the idea of doing a sequel.

 

I found it to be a very clever script. I loved the scene where he drags her into the phone booth in the diner. When they return to the car, reporters are all around and think they have just married. It has a fast pace and a lot of energy. The scenes where they wind up in a boxcar with a Mexican family were priceless.

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*I thought A Millionaire for Christy was terrible ! Absolutely wretched ! In fact, I couldn't take it any more after the aborted wedding scene and turned it off. I keep wanting to like Eleanor Parker, but it's difficult work. I usually think of her as "whiney" and "clingy", but that's not fair of me, since my perception is based upon only two films I've seen her in : Between Two Worlds and The Man with the Golden Arm. Two films is not really enough to make a fair assessment of an actor, and anyway, she can't help it if she's directed to be whiney and clingy.She's just doing a good job, that's her character. But still, she's annoying in those films.*

 

I have this movie recorded and didn't see it the other day. When I first saw this movie a few years ago, I knew that it was a 20th Century Fox release. I thought that maybe Fox had originally cooked it up as a vehicle for either Gene Tierney or Jeanne Crain (this was before I had read a biography of Eleanor Parker and had been unaware her husband was the producer). It's not as bad as all that, but coming as it did between two acting nominations (CAGED-1950; DETECTIVE STORY-1951), in both of which she is great, maybe they were trying to give her a lighter role than these. I agree that Miss Parker has had some variable performance (and TMWTGA is definitely not the best film to judge her), and also think she was good in THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE and other light roles while under contract at WB, but I thought she was decent (if ditzy, as per the genre) in A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY. There is one scene in particular that I found memorable, and Eleanor especially luminous. This was a beach scene with Fred, with the moonlight; I found her playing quite delicate and her most fetching.

 

*I liked A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY.*

*But...it would've been vastly improved if:*

*1. Gig Young had played the Richard Carlson role.*

*2. Mitchell Leisen directed the picture.*

*and*

*3. Carole Lombard had still been alive to do the Eleanor Parker role. Or at least, they could've given the part to Lucille Ball.*

 

I actually think that Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power would have been a good match here; I thought they were teamed well in 1948 in the screwball comedy THAT WONDERFUL URGE, a remake of Power's 1937 hit LOVE IS NEWS (although he was resisting doing any more light comedy roles at this time).

 

*In short, the script and Fred were great. But most of the elements were badly assembled. This could've been a classic that revived the screwball comedy format.*

 

It would NOT have revived the screwball comedy format. In the late 40s and into the 50s, many attempts at screwball were released (some were remakes). They weren't so much trying to revive the format as they were a continuation of it (many comedies with screwball elements were made throughout the 40s). However, the genre as as a whole was something hard to take by postwar audiences: after the horrors of WW2 and the general stresses of the times, madcap heiresses, ditzy heroines, etc. and their problems were not easily tolerated. Even those that ARE considered classics (Hawks' I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE-1948, and MONKEY BUSINESS-1952) did NOTHING to revive the genre.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Nov 8, 2010 2:38 PM

 

Edited by: Arturo on Nov 8, 2010 2:38 PM

 

Edited by: Arturo on Nov 8, 2010 2:41 PM

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Maybe I shouldn't have given up on it. But why would anyone deliver an important message from their employer to the client from the bathroom? I know, I know, it's screwball, you have to "go with it", but sometimes these kinds of comedies that require totally unrrealistic and foolish behaviour from their characters don't work for me. (Perhaps I'm just being a humourless po-face.)

 

Next time it's on ( and I can wait) I'll bring along my suspension of disbelief and give it another shot. Who knows, maybe it'll become a "Hallelujah !" film for me.

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I am going to disagree about Tierney and Power in these roles. I think Fred is perfectly cast. It's a throwback to the types of films he did with Carole and Claudette. He is well within his element.

 

When I watched this film I kept thinking about how Carole Lombard's career may have been if she had lived a long life. What kinds of films would she have made in the early 50s? I am sure she would have had more screwball comedy scripts tossed her direction.

 

With Harlow and Lombard dead, Lucille Ball was the heir apparent to this type of material. Not Eleanor Parker. But Lucy was under contract to Columbia at this time and she was getting ready to have her first baby. She and Fred would work together later in the 50s on an episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.

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Maybe I liked it because I was feeling a bit depressed yesterday and I needed a good laugh.

 

The bathroom scene was an excuse to separate them long enough for Carlson to whisk him off to the wedding. And of course, for her to follow them and break up the marriage before it even happened.

 

I agree that the voice-over scenes where she heard Una Merkel's character goad her into pursuing a rich man were a bit silly. But I think that's because Una was cut out of the rest of the film and she's rather high-billed in this film. I think some of her scenes may have wound up on the cutting room floor, so they kept repeating that voice over to keep her character alive a bit longer. It could've been eliminated. It should've been more on Parker's character being caught up in the moment and letting things go too far before telling them about the inheritance.

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*When I watched this film I kept thinking about how Carole Lombard's career may have been if she had lived a long life. What kinds of films would she have made in the early 50s? I am sure she would have had more screwball comedy scripts tossed her direction.*

 

*With Harlow and Lombard dead, Lucille Ball was the heir apparent to this type of material. Not Eleanor Parker. But Lucy was under contract to Columbia at this time and she was getting ready to have her first baby. She and Fred would work together later in the 50s on an episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.*

 

The other screwball heroines were still alive and filming in 1951: Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy and even Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell. NONE of them were doing screwball comedy at this point, or if they were, they were poorly received. Rather, they were doing broader, family comedies at this time, or comedies about females in the workplace, because that was what was popular, and because Screwball as a viable genre no longer existed. It would probably had been no different had Lombard survived. Lucy WAS adept at screwball (her Anabel movies, etc.), but her slapstick routines on TV were a far cry from the subtle playing of the screwball comediennes. Her comedies in the late 40s had little to do with screwball (except for EASY TO WED, a remake of the screwball LIBELED LADY).

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I think you're wrong on this, Arturo.

 

Colbert and Loy had aged and were taking on more matronly roles. Audiences would no longer believe them as daffy heroines. But Lucy was someone they still bought the shtick with, due to her immense popularity in those pictures with Bob Hope around this time (FANCY PANTS and SORROWFUL JONES). Also, Columbia was selling Lucy in vehicles like HER HUSBAND'S AFFAIRS, MISS GRANT TAKES RICHMOND and THE FULLER BRUSH GIRL. Lucy was hitting her comic stride and this was a very successful phase of her career. Lucy was also doing a hit radio sitcom called My Favorite Husband, which became the basis for her first television series.

 

The other thing that was happening is that screwball comedy was not dying, it was simply transferring over to TV. I Love Lucy is about a screwball chick's hijinks to get into her husband's act. It did not become a family comedy until the baby was born and the landlords were more integrated as an extended family unit. Nonetheless, Lucy never lost her tendency for screwball comedy and those zany antics kept coming.

 

Roz Russell was trying to find more serious, stage-based properties. However, she did do an occasional screwball comedy in the 50s...A WOMAN OF DISTINCTION also happens to feature Lucy in a comic cameo bit. But Roz would've been wrong for A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY. This female lead is supposed to come across as a loose cannon and someone whose sanity is questioned. Roz specialized in feminist roles and was always self-assured.

 

Jean Arthur was heading back to the stage, because she was afraid she no longer photographed well. She would only do one more feature, and it was a western, not a comedy.

 

The only other person I can see working in CHRISTY, aside from Lucille Ball, is possibly Hedy Lamarr.

 

However, I think Columbia should've bought it and remade it later in the decade with Judy Holliday. It would've been a hit for her and Jack Lemmon.

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I don't think Arturo has seen all of Lucille Ball's films from the late 40s. If he had seen HER HUSBAND'S AFFAIRS, he would know that her performance as a screwball comedienne was not just limited to EASY TO WED during this period. Plus, she was cast in EASY TO WED by MGM because they considered her the heir to Jean Harlow (she was given Jean's part from the original LIBELED LADY). There was no one else on the lot who could do that kind of comedy like she could, or at least do it so well. Harry Cohn recognized that too, and when he signed after she finished at MGM, he made a point to put her in comedies (with the exception of THE MAGIC CARPET). These were not domestic comedies, they were screwball comedies.

 

Even if we offer a definition of screwball comedy, we will still be able to see that Lucille Ball's films from the late 40s and early 50s were of this ilk. The obvious exceptions are MAGIC CARPET and the film noir projects she did like THE DARK CORNER (though she is seen as a screwball type secretary) and LURED (truly a dramatic role).

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Laura, I agree with you. She is wonderful and very funny in *The Voice of the Turtle*. That is also a much better film.

 

Here is my two cents.

 

Seeing that Parker was teamed up with MacMurray, I watched *A Millionaire for Christy* with high hopes. It starts out fairly good but completely loses steam after they, quite literally, hit the beach. I thought the scenes with the Mexicans went at least six minutes too long. George Marshall loses his pacing, the film loses its focus and all the comedic momentum just seems to dry up.

 

Parker, as a novice gold digger with MacMurray as her befuddled target, had great potential but the script fails to properly build on the premise. It just seems to lose its way. I didn't think it was so much predictable as wrongheaded. There is a weak rally toward the end, Kay Buckley tends to liven up the proceedings when she appears, but only because she provides the spark for some witty antagonism that has unfortunately and prematurely abandoned the leads. Una Merkel is wasted of course and Richard Carlson is blandly annoying.

 

Having said all that, there is that first twenty minutes or so to savor. There are certainly worse films one could watch. It's just that this one had possibilities and failed to meet them.

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I agree that it was not the right role for Una Merkel. I am sure she had deleted scenes. I bet there was a scene where Carlson calls the office back east to verify Parker's employment. That does not appear, it is just mentioned.

 

The scenes at the hotel are not bad. I liked how one minute Fred is into her, then the next minute he's a heel and is back with the other woman. That sort of works for me, even though we are guaranteed that he really loves Parker.

 

The scene where he smokes her out of the bathroom at the train station was trying too hard for laughs. But the energy was up again and things were moving full steam ahead until the last frame.

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One thing I want to add about screwball comedy...Judy Holliday did not really burst on to the movie scene until 1949 (in a supporting role). She wins an Oscar in 1950 for a major screwball role in BORN YESTERDAY. She continued to make pictures as a screwball comedienne until 1960. So the genre did not evaporate. It's just that actresses like Harlow and Lombard had died too young, and the surviving ones were aging and heading into television or back to the stage (or into retirement).

 

I think we can say that Marilyn Monroe and Sheree North were doing screwball comedy at Fox in the 50s and early 60s. In fact, Sheree and Betty Grable (in Grable's last picture) are completely doing a screwball routine in HOW TO BE VERY, VERY POPULAR. Sheree is also a screwball dame in THE LIEUTENANT WORE SKIRTS.

 

In 1959's A PRIVATE'S AFFAIRS, there is a great deal of screwball comedy in this military picture by Fox. It is Barbara Eden's turn to carry on the tradition with Jesse Royce Landis (who is quite a bit older).

 

Screwball did not die in the 1940s.

 

Another example: Greer Garson doing screwball comedy in both JULIA MISBEHAVES and THE LAW AND THE LADY.

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wikipedia (agreed, not necessarily the best source) says the following about screwball comedy:

 

*"While there is no authoritative list of the defining characteristics of the screwball comedy genre, films considered to be definitive of the genre usually feature farcical situations, a combination of slapstick with fast-paced repartee, and a plot involving courtship and marriage or remarriage. The film critic Andrew Sarris has defined the screwball comedy as "a sex comedy without the sex."[5]*

 

*Like farce, screwball comedies often involve mistaken identities or other circumstances in which a character or characters try to keep some important fact a secret. Sometimes screwball comedies feature male characters cross-dressing, further contributing to the misunderstandings (Bringing Up Baby, I Was a Male War Bride, Some Like It Hot). They also involve a central romantic story, usually in which the couple seem mismatched and even hostile to each other at first, and "meet cute" in some way. Often this mismatch comes about because the man is much further down the economic scale than the woman (Bringing Up Baby, Holiday). The final marriage is often planned by the woman from the beginning, while the man doesn?t know at all. In Bringing Up Baby we find a rare statement on that, when the leading woman says, once speaking to someone other than her future husband: "He?s the man I?m going to marry, he doesn?t know it, but I am." "*

 

The problem I have with this kind of comedy is that the film asks us to believe too much in the name of furthering the story. I do believe you have to use "suspension of disbelief", not only in screwball comedies but in almost all genres of film, but sometimes the situations the audiences are asked to accept in some of these movies is just too much, too dumb to even be fun. I often find myself thinking "Nobody would do that", or " People just don't behave that way.". The behaviour of the characters, particularly often the female leads, is just too extreme and beyond the pale to be engaging for me. There are exceptions, and the few "screwballs " that I like are usually saved by the fine comedic performances involved; sometimes -but not very often -everything just seems right in these films. *Bringing Up Baby* is a great example of a perfect screwball comedy ( and I normally don't even like Katharine Hepburn, but she's perfect in this).

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Nov 8, 2010 4:48 PM

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*One thing I want to add about screwball comedy...Judy Holliday did not really burst on to the movie scene until 1949 (in a supporting role). She wins an Oscar in 1950 for a major screwball role in BORN YESTERDAY. She continued to make pictures as a screwball comedienne until 1960. So the genre did not evaporate. It's just that actresses like Harlow and Lombard had died too young, and the surviving ones were aging and heading into television or back to the stage (or into retirement).*

 

Carole Lombard was trying to make more dramas towards the end, so there is no reason to think that had she lived, she would not have further gone down this path. Why would she still be making screwball comedies only/at all, and not retiring/diversifying, etc. like all her other peers?

 

*I think we can say that Marilyn Monroe and Sheree North were doing screwball comedy at Fox in the 50s and early 60s. In fact, Sheree and Betty Grable (in Grable's last picture) are completely doing a screwball routine in HOW TO BE VERY, VERY POPULAR. Sheree is also a screwball dame in THE LIEUTENANT WORE SKIRTS.*

 

Screwball Comedy was coined to describe the crazy romantic comedies popular in the mid to late 1930s. Of course, the main impetus for the term 'screwball' came from Carole Lombard's character in MY MAN GODFREY, but it also applied to her family in this movie. Not all comedies with a kooky female lead are "screwball"; Judy Holliday did not make 'screwball' comedies, nor did Lucy. It's not just the character, but the whole premise of the movie that are 'screwball', that make a screwball comedy. People accept the circumstances as a matter of course. Even in IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU, only she sees nothing wrong with her name on a billboard; every one else thinks she's nuts.

 

No one said that there were no screwball comedies in the 50s, just that as a genre it was artistically spent; many of the films in this style were remakes, like HOW TO BE VERY VERY POPULAR. THE LIEUTENANT WORE SKIRTS is an informal retooling of the earlier I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE.

 

Marilyn's only screwball comedies at Fox, besides the aforementioned MONKEY BUSINESS, were the programmers she made as a featured player pre-stardom. Her last unfinished film, SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, was another remake.

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*Plus, she was cast in EASY TO WED by MGM because they considered her the heir to Jean Harlow (she was given Jean's part from the original LIBELED LADY). There was no one else on the lot who could do that kind of comedy like she could, or at least do it so well.*

 

Jean Harlow was not considered a Screwball comedienne, per se. She was the wisecracking tart, with a heart of gold. While a common enough character in the 30s and after, this is a different breed from the typical screwball heroine. Think Joan Blondell, Patsy Kelly, etc.

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> {quote:title=MyFavoriteFilms wrote:}{quote}

 

> The bathroom scene was an excuse to separate them long enough for Carlson to whisk him off to the wedding. And of course, for her to follow them and break up the marriage before it even happened.

 

That's exactly my point. Nobody would go into a bathroom and then decide to call out the reason for their visit from there, especially with such important news . The only reason she did so was, as you say, the "separate them long enough for Carlson to whisk him off to the wedding...". And that's what I mean by "contrived".

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