Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The More the Merrier

George Stevens, 1943, bw (8.7*)
Classic B&W comedies don't get any better than this one. Talented and terminally cute actress Jean Arthur actually thought of this story to get work, director George Stevens liked it enough to have the screenplay written and filmed. Washington DC has a severe housing shortage during WW2, and people are sharing their apartments, people are sleeping in foyers, and anywhere else you look. Charles Coburn, perfect in an Oscar-winning supporting role, shows up early for his hotel reservation and has no place to stay. At the same time, Jean Arthur is about to rent half her apt to 'help ease the shortage', and Coburn uses chicanery to worm his way into the rental, which Jean wanted to give to another woman. Coburn immediately decides to play matchmaker, and sub-lets his half to a aircraft worker, the handsome and available Joel McRea, but Coburn doesn't know Jean has a fiance.

The single women to men ratio is 8 to 1 in wartime DC, and Stevens uses this fact for one of the funniest scenes in film. Jean and her fiance go to a restaurant, and Coburn brings McRae to the same restaurant, where Joel is immediately surrounded by 7 single women at the bar. Coburn spots Jean and her beau and manages to not only share their table, but whisks her beau away on business, leaving McRea with the seven single women and Jean - so the 8-1 ratio is now a reality! This lengthy sitcom scene will leave you in stitches, and Arthur will steal your heart. Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, but Coburn was the only winner.

This has always been one of my favorite comedies, and it never gets old, and is just as funny today. It was refilmed in 1964 with Cary Grant in Tokyo as Walk, Don't Run, with the Olympics causing the housing shortage, but that remake fell far short of the original.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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