AS YOUNG AS YOU FEEL
LET'S MAKE IT LEGAL
WE'RE NOT MARRIED
(20th CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT)
(MILESTONE HOME VIDEO)
Unless 20th Century Fox plans to release SCUDDA HOO SCUDDA HAY, A TICKET TO TOMAHAWK, and O'HENRY'S FULL HOUSE, in which Marilyn Monroe had what were essentially bit parts, these four latest releases will be the last of the Fox-Monroe collaborations to see the dvd light of day. The four latest titles have a great deal in common: all but one (WE'RE NOT MARRIED) were designed as second feature "programmers" with very short running times and low budgets, all were photographed in black and white, and in all of them Monroe supports, if that is the word, a group of late career stars (Claudette Colbert, Macdonald Carey, Zachery Scott, Ginger Rogers, Monty Woolley, Constance Bennett, June Haver, William Lundigan, Frank Fay, Fred Allen, Eddie Bracken, etc.) of decidedly variable luster, most of which were making near final appearances on the silver screen. All four films, in their own minor way , provide consistent, if modest, degrees of enjoyment.
Easily the best of the batch is the earliest one, AS YOUNG AS YOU FEEL, in which a 65 year old man (Woolley) is forced to retire, and poses as the president of his former employer's holding company so he can air his views on everything from company policy to national economics. While the ensuing hijinks could hardly be described as rollicking, this is about as easygoing and breezy a 76 minutes as you can spend.
LET'S MAKE IT LEGAL, in which a grandmother (Colbert) tires of her husband's (Carey) gambling habit and divorces him, only to have her daughter try to get them back together, suffers from a fairly predictable screenplay, as well as director Richard Sale's lethargic and uneven pacing, which make the scant 76 minute running time seem considerably longer.
LOVE NEST, on the other hand, is rather briskly directed by Joseph Newman, a fact which turns this simple story of a returning serviceman (Lundigan) who finds, much to his chagrin, that his wife (Haver) has bought a run-down apartment building, complete with a long list of expensive repairs, into a rather amiable and relaxing, if admittedly inconsequential, experience.
WE'RE NOT MARRIED, the only film of the four where Monroe actually achieves above-the-title billing, is actually a five segment story wherein each couple learns that the judge who married them was not yet legally authorized to do so, so they must decide whether or not to legally reunite. As with most "omnibus" films, some segments are better than others, the best of which is the one about a fortune hunter (Zsa Zsa Gabor) who tries to bilk her tycoon husband (Louis Calhern). This particular episode is wickedly sparkling, thanks to the delightfully deft performance of the great Calhern, as well as some especially sharp writing.
The full screen black and white transfers on every one of these films is really very good, and while the pseudo-stereo tracks do slightly enhance the very sparse musical cues in these films, you're much better off sticking with the excellently rendered monaural tracks, as all the films are dialogue-driven.
While all the dvd cases feature huge images of Monroe alone, her participation in most of these films is strictly that of a supporting nature, though Monroe completists will be pleased enough, as due to her rather obvious physical attributes, if nothing else, she is certainly noticeable.
After sitting through the wonderful Kevin Brownlow restoration of the incredibly charming 1927 silent comedy IT, which is available from Milestone Home Entertainment, I've come to the conclusion that Marilyn Monroe's relentless sexual posturings seem forced, empty, childish, and vacuous when compared to the genuine vivaciousness, exuberance, and sheer heat that Clara Bow displayed with such spontaneity and ease in her most successful film, IT. As well directed, excellently photographed and conceived as this IT is, there's no question that the film would not exist were it not for the singularly sensational, natural, and HOT presence of this whirlwind force of nature. Clara Bow, along with Brigitte Bardot, is one of the very few female stars whose sheer sexuality literally broke the barrier between the viewer and the silver screen. Unlike Bardot, who did, in fact, possess a slight amount of actual talent, there is nothing slight about Bow's talents. In addition to all of her other attributes, she appears to have had truly incredible improvisational instincts that were always character-driven and truthful, and enlivened the proceedings to an enormous degree. No wonder she was dubbed the "It" girl!
Need I say more? Miss IT at your own risk.