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One Wild Oat

Gasser

One Wild Oat (1951)

     Old movies provide wonderful insight to many social aspects of the past, in particular concepts of romance and marriage. I will be getting married next year to a man whom by then I will have been dating for nearly nine years. In One Wild Oat a 17-year-old girl and an only slightly older young man endeavor to wed after a few encounters.

     Watching classic movies, people are often diving into a quick marriage after swiftly falling in love. Not only that, but there is no drawn out wedding planning or engagement period. All the preparation and hoopla around nuptial ceremonies today look nothing like these purported customs of the past. One can cite a variety of social changes that have transpired since 1951 when this movie came out. Concepts of premarital sex and ill thoughts of unmarried people living together surely drove couples toward marriage faster than today. In perhaps a backward way, however, as divorce has moved from taboo, to mainstream to about half of cases, people today seem to move more slowly to wedlock.

     In One Wild Oat, however, the story has very little to do with that young couple. Although Cherrie Proudfoot (June Sylvaine) seeks to marry Fred Gilbey (Andrew Crawford), it is their parents who will occupy the screen for the majority of the flick. Father Humphrey Proudfoot (Robertson Hare) loathes upstairs neighbor Alfred Gilbey (Stanley Holloway). The two lead different lives, one a solicitor, the other a greyhound racer/gambler, respectively. Humphrey most resoundingly dissents to the marriage and because Cherrie is underage she must have parental consent for the wedding.

     As the wives (Vera Pearce and Constance Lorne) generally get along, the men feud over the course of a couple days and dig up dirt to blackmail each other toward’s their whim. Humphrey works to expose Alfred’s extramarital affair to convince him to oppose the wedding while Alfred discovers Humphrey’s “one wild oat” before he was married who may have a son for which he is responsible.

     One Wild Oat is full of comical jabs as these adult men make fools of themselves and dither between feuding and assisting each other in avoiding the awkward situations that arise between they and their wives. Hare and Holloway are supremely entertaining as a timid office worker and a raucous gambler. Making a minor appearance is Audrey Hepburn, who plays a hotel receptionist and gives us about 30 minutes of on-screen gold. Although Hepburn’s novelty might be the only reason to watch this flick, it is not a bad oat by any means, just nothing particularly special.

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