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We’re Not Dressing

Gasser

We're Not Dressing (1934)

    I know I’ve raved about Carole Lombard before but haven’t actually managed to review any of her movies –but it’s not my fault! I went through a couple month phase a year or so ago when TCM was playing a bunch of her stuff, but the channel has not managed to devote time to her since. Thank goodness for Netflix. I’ve queued the “Carole Lombard Glamour Collection”, so expect a number of reviews from that set over the next couple months.

     I would call We’re Not Dressing minor Lombard as it is not her best work, but still the actress’ traditional role: wealthy beauty in a romantic entanglement. It came smack dab in the middle of her Hollywood career and would feature a rather young-looking 31-year-old Bing Crosby, only a few years into acting. Bing as Stephen is a deckhand on the yacht of Doris Worthington, played by Lombard. Doris is being courted by two prince brothers, one of which is played by a very young “Raymond” Milland. Along for the voyage are Doris’ uncle Hubert (Leon Errol) and friend Edith (Ethel Merman). Despite the pining princes, Doris is distracted by Stephen, who has been tasked with looking after her pet bear cub (inspiration for Bringing Up Baby?). The heiress is playing cruel to the young man, however, to mask her feelings for a subordinate. 

     A drunken George manages to somehow cause the boat to sink by spinning with the wheel, so Stephen rescues Doris, who has been knocked unconscious by the crumbling ship, and her bear. The duo, along with the princes, George and Edith, wash up on an island, where the parties assume Stephen should be waiting on them. Toppling the social structure, Stephen tells everyone they must work and begins building his own hut and fire and cooking his own clams.  The others stick with stubborn Doris until they are hungry enough to agree to dig their own clams and gather firewood. Doris eventually “earns” some food when she delivers a sack of what turn out to be empty clam shells, angering Stephen. We soon learn that there is a couple conducting research on another part of the island whom Doris discovers, but fails to tell the others. A romance is blooming between she and Stephen, but he eventually takes the whole situation as a prank.

     There’s a great repeated exchange between Bing and Lombard that cements for us that they have feelings for each other. While aboard the ship, a subordinate Stephen is honest with Doris about a roller-skating incident involving her bear, which angers the gal to the point of slapping the deckhand, who responds with a peck on the lips. Later, when Doris delivers the empty clam shells, Stephen slaps Doris, hard, and she kisses him. 

     I must make note of Ethel Merman. I have known the woman only by her grating singing voice and as an older woman in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, so I was hardly expecting the beautiful young woman with a great body. This was only her second film and her singing voice had yet to mature to the annoying extend to which I’m accustomed. Additionally, Gracie Allen plays the dumb wife of the researcher (George Burns) whose ditsyness makes one think he is listening to a Marx brother. She develops a “moose trap” meant to catch  four mice because one is a mouse, two is mice and two mice are a moose. This film might be worth checking out just for her:

Gracie Martin: We just caught Tarzan’s mate!
George Martin: Tarzan is a character in a book.
Gracie Martin: Well, maybe he got out!

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It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Dullsville

It’s a Mad, Mad,
Mad, Mad World (1963)

     I find that unfortunately, I am a person who can be easily duped into watching a movie based on an impressive cast. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is loaded full of star leads and cameo appearances, but the comedic potential for the film must have been too great a burden because the attempt falls flat.

     Although arriving two years prior to The Great Race, I felt as though I was watching a remake of that brilliant piece of comedy. Even the animated opening titles screamed of Blake Edwards. Like the Edwards’ film, Mad World involves teams of individuals racing toward an end point where riches are promised. Alliances change throughout the story, etc. Unlike The Great Race, however, this picture lacks all the charm, romance, and endearing characters that make the other movie work.
 
     The film starts with a car flying off a windy, cliff-side road and five male motorists running to the accident victim’s aid. There, they hear a delirious Jimmy Durante spout off about $350,000 in stolen money buried beneath a W in a park at the southern end of the state. The original parties total eight people in four vehicles, who try to negotiate how they will split the money before giving up and fighting each other to the finish. Some drive, some fly, but all end up at the park at the same time, at which point 12 people are now involved. Meanwhile, Spencer Tracy, as a detective who has been tracking this case for many years, has been tracking the idiots during their entire plight. He knows generally where the “treasure” is buried, but not precisely.
 
      Besides not being very funny, the greatest flaw Mad World boasts is thoroughly unlikable characters. Buddy Hackett was the best one for me because I generally like the goofy-voiced actor. Ethel Merman also makes quite an impression as an obnoxious mother/mother-in-law who gets the abuse she deserves. This is the first I’ve seen Merman on film, and I must say I prefer her acting to her singing. Mickey Rooney is in there also, but gives a greater impression by his rundown, aging look than by his performance.
     The Great Race had heroes and villains, but Mad World has neither. You loved Professor Fate for his failure as an evil force and were overjoyed by the time The Great Leslie and Maggie get around to kissing. There is no such blossoming romance in this feature; in fact, relationships crumble more than develop. Add to that the more than 3-hour run time, and I’ll advise everyone take a pass on this flick.
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