Tuesday, March 08, 2016

OVP: Tom, Dick, and Harry (1941)

Film: Tom, Dick, and Harry (1941)
Stars: Ginger Rogers, George Murphy, Alan Marshal, Burgess Meredith
Director: Garson Kanin
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Original Screenplay)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

Oh, Ginger Rogers, you harlot you.  That was the goal of this particular film, at least from the producers eyes, for you and the audience to say with a grin on your face.  Tom, Dick, and Harry, a film that received an original screenplay nomination in 1941, was released during the height of Rogers post-Fred Astaire heyday, and was the first film to come out after she won her Oscar for Kitty Foyle.  All of this should lend a pretty respectable amount of credence to the film, but the movie itself is a bit of a dud, and sort of exhibits why I've always had a little bit of an allergic reaction to Rogers, particularly when her dancing party Fred wasn't in the picture.

(Spoilers Ahead) For starters, Rogers is far too old to be playing the role of Janie, a young phone operator who is put in the strange position of being proposed to by three different men.  The part calls for a girl of about twenty, but Rogers is thirty and looks it, which makes her flightiness seem more of a character deficit rather than simply an excuse of youth.  The movie follows as she is proposed to by her longtime beau Tom (Murphy), a hippie-before-that-was-a-thing Harry (Meredith), and a gallant millionaire playboy Dick (Marshal), until of course she is forced to choose one of the three men.

The film is quite short, and is lengthened mostly by elongated sequences of Janie daydreaming about which of the men she wants to spend her life with, including one weirdly provocative moment where she thinks about marrying all three until she realizes that she'll have to sleep with all three men (one of several reasons why this film could never be remade now, as a post-sexual revolution film would see this as a bonus and not a dealbreaker).  Janie in the end picks Harry, the one whom she feels a ping for every time that they kiss, though we get no indication as to why except for that there's a spark there and the film feels far too trifling for my sake in this regard.

After all, quite frankly, it's hard to imagine why (aside from beauty) these men crave Janie, who is silly, flighty, false, and shows little regard for any of them as people, but simply as sides of beef to be graded.  However, considering that's what they're doing to her by only judging her for being beautiful, perhaps this is a match made in heaven.  For the audience, however, the silliness wares after a while and the fact that the characters are all pretty shallow and complete caricatures makes for a lousy film experience.  It's difficult to understand why a film that has a severe shortage of wit and plot twists was able to score a nomination for its writing, but perhaps it was the fact that the movie was a hit and RKO wanted to continue to push Ms. Rogers since she was such a gigantic part of their bottom line at the time.  Whatever the reason, it's laughable to think this once competed against Citizen Kane.

Those are my thoughts on this dismissible trifle-how about yours?  Are you a big fan of Ginger Rogers, or are you (like me) perplexed how she became such a gigantic name at the movies?  Why do you think this film managed a writing nomination?  And would you have picked Burgess Meredith, Alan Marshal, or George Murphy for yourself?  Share in the comments!

No comments: