Saturday, April 30, 2016

OVP: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)

Film: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
Stars: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, Ray Collins
Director: Irving Reis
Oscar History: 1 nomination/1 win (Best Original Screenplay*)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 3/5 stars

It's always a little bit strange to see child stars as they grow up, especially if they aren't well-known as adult actors (the likes of Patty Duke or Jodie Foster aren't nearly as jarring as someone who largely is ingrained in our memories as a young performer).  Considering that Shirley Temple is the most iconic child star of all time, perhaps no person quite personifies this shock more than she does.  While I had seen one other of Temple's films as an adult (1948's classic Fort Apache), it's still a bit of a "whoa" moment to see her not as the little girl that saved Hollywood during the Depression but instead as a young woman not necessarily playing "Shirley Temple."  That was the case with this now largely forgotten film from 1947, which in its day managed to be a big hit and won a surprise Academy Award for best screenplay.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film is rather a trifle, especially in its plot.  The movie follows Richard (Grant) a charming, boozing ladies' man (when is Cary Grant not playing this role is probably a better question?) who ends up in court in front of Judge Margaret Turner (Loy), whom he immediately takes a fancy toward but she pays him no mind as he seems like a playboy and she's a no-nonsense type that wants someone serious.  As the film progresses and through happenstance, Richard meets Margaret's younger sister Susan (Temple), who immediately swoons for him and finds him irresistible despite their age difference.  Through logic that can only be found in a movie, Margaret's Uncle Matt (Collins) convinces everyone that the best way for Susan to get over her infatuation with Richard is to let them date each other, despite the protestations of both Richard and Margaret.

As one might expect, the film falls into place in the same way that you'd anticipate.  Richard eventually wears Margaret's dislike of him down by proving to be a pretty good guy, and he wins her heart over the "more proper" ADA Tommy (Vallee), while Susan eventually wears out her crush on Richard and gets back together with her high school beau.  The film ends with Margaret and Richard randomly meeting at an airport, and suddenly we have the happy ending that a Golden Age Rom-Com demands.

The film would hardly be remembered today (it's fine, and Grant and Loy are such wonderful performers that putting them together works even if it's not nearly as funny as you'd hope), but it did receive a rather startling Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.  Considering the film was up against both the far more dramatic A Double Life and Body and Soul (not to mention the classic Monsieur Verdoux and Shoeshine) it's perplexing to wonder how a random romantic comedy managed to snag such a nomination in 1947, let alone that it took the win.  The screenplay is fine, but it's incredibly predictable and Temple doesn't really have the comedic timing that her costars do (and occasionally even Loy doesn't know how to make herself frosty enough), so this feels like a bit of a miss in terms of the Oscars actually giving out the trophy.  "Fine" is hardly what you'd consider worthy of an Oscar.  Weirdly enough, the film is written by none other than bestselling novelist Sidney Sheldon, who had a rather bizarre career starting as an Oscar-winning screenwriter (this was his first script!), then going on to writing several classic musicals (Easter Parade and Annie Get Your Gun), followed by a stint working in sitcoms (The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie), and then finally ending his career as a massively successful novelist, writing Number One bestsellers like The Other Side of Midnight, the latter of which he is most remembered for today.  It's strange enough to think of Sheldon, a suspense novelist of the 1970's/80's, having an Oscar-it's even odder to think it happened for a Cary Grant romantic comedy.

Those are my thoughts on this picture-what are yours?  I'm positive that there are some fans out there (it's not a bad movie, just not a great one)-want to share your defense in the comments?  What phase of Sidney Sheldon's career do you most enjoy?  And what is Shirley Temple's greatest film, period?

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