Tuesday, October 27, 2015
My Dear Secretary (1948)
This film's about a best-selling author, Owen Waterbury, whose secretaries usually become his mistresses. He hires a new one, Stephanie "Steve"Gaylord, who thinks she's there to actually do secretarial work. She finds out how wrong she is, but somehow gets sucked into Waterbury's life anyway and, as can only happen in movies, when she threatens to leave him, he marries her. Steve's an aspiring writer herself, and both of them start married life working on new books. Hers turns out to be better than his, and their relationship disintegrates. Hard times follow where they both hire new secretaries to get at each other, but of course, everything comes around eventually for a happy ending.
I'm not particularly a comedy person, but I can be won over by a good light-hearted movie. Alas, this one didn't work for me. Which is too bad, as it might have worked with different casting. Much as I adore Kirk Douglas, as fabulous as he is in movies like Lonely are the Brave, Paths of Glory, etc... this style of humor simply doesn't suit him. Maybe he was too young to know how to play the role at the time, but the script doesn't do his character any favors either. His character is an inconsiderate jerk taking advantage of any and everyone, and it's a wonder he managed to write a book with all his lazy playboy antics. I've only seen Laraine Day in Foreign Correspondent (where I thought she was great), but I can't say she won me over here in comedy either. I liked her best in her serious moments. Neither actor seems to fit in this particular film.
However, if you leave the two leads out of it, the rest of the movie and cast is delightful. Keenan Wynn was positively scene stealing. Every time he was on screen, the movie came to life. He made me laugh repeatedly with his smooth, charming, free-loading, bad cooking/ironing ways. He was hilarious. Irene Ryan as their maid and Florence Bates as their landlady were just as funny. I also loved Helen Walker as Elsie, Waterbury's previous secretary/mistress. Dump the leads and give the movie to these secondary characters, and it would have been a sparkling gem. Everyone of them felt at home in this movie. They turned silly situations and lines into genuine comedy, not forced humor. It was just the leads who seemed like they were uncomfortable.
So, a mixed bag of a film.