Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Talk of the Town (1942)

A warehouse burns to the ground and a man dies. Professional rabble rouser Leopold Dilg (Cary Grant) is arrested. Realizing he doesn't have a chance in the world, he escapes before his trial. He takes refuge in the cottage of a lovely young schoolteacher, Nora Shelley (41 year old Jean Arthur). She helps Dreamy Leo but things get complicated when noted legal theorist Professor Lightcap (Ronald Coleman) arrives a day early to rent the cottage. Nora passes Leopold off as her gardener.

Every Christmas I get a daily desk calendar. I use them at work because it provides me with lots of paper for notes. This past Christmas I did not get one, so I went out and got myself a Leonard Maltin. Not really a Maltin guy. More a Siskel and Ebert type, but Maltin is what I found. I make two piles: one No the other Maybe. The Talk of the Town was in the Maybe pile.

There are two stories going at simultaneously. First is the legal drama unfolding. Malcontent Dilg has no tolerance for the abstract ideals of Lightcap's world and the fussy professor has no regard for Dilg's emotional notions of law. Reality, as it frequently is, is somewhere in between. Do you think these two could ever learn to compromise and someone become good friends, I mean real good friends? Do ya, huh?

The second story is of the love triangle. Nora is an unwed schoolteacher and therefore needs a man. Who does she choose to be with? That question is not answered until the very end, and don't be so sure. Interestingly, when the camera panned between the three actors, my eight year old said "triangle". The camera panned in the shape of a triangle. Huh.

He also asked when it was going to become funny. While sometimes amusing, it wasn't really a comedy. Talk of the Town is a very well crafted character study and (dare I say it) situation comedy. It didn't drag, it never seemed forced or trite. This is a well done movie. Sharp and focused. It was nominated for seven academy awards, winning ... um ... none.

An IMDB blogger cracked that this was a leftist propaganda movie. Bloggers, they can be so stupid, huh? Well anyways, I tried to fit his thesis into the reality on the screen. Did Cary Grant represent leftist ideals? Kinda, I would say. He name was Leopold Dilg, which sounds Ruskie to me! When posing at the gardener, they called him Joseph. Not Joe or Joey. Joseph. Hmmmm. When the man failed to realize, even if Dilg represented the left and Lightcap the right, both moved to the center. Plus Lightcap declared himself a political independent fairly early on.

Well written, well acted, and entertaining throughout. Jean Arthur is wonderful. I really did care about the characters and their stories. I wasn't totally charmed by this film, but I can see how others could be. I'm glad I watched it. AMRU 3.5.

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