Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Talk of the Town (1942)

I learned a new game from this movie. Next time you're walking down the street with a friend, the first one of you to spot a man with a beard should call out, "Beaver!" and lick their thumb. Some random girls walking down the street of the small town where this movie takes place get to yell beaver at Professor Lightcap (Ronald Colman). Professor Lightcap needs his beard, because until he grew one, women winked at him and people were prone to calling him "sonny."

This is a fun but also very long movie. I can't remember exactly how long it was, and it may not really have been much longer than two hours, but it felt long. It just kept going and going. Not without a purpose, though. At the beginning of the movie local semi-political activist Leopold Dilg (Grant) is indicted for arson (someone has burned down the town mill!) and murder (a man has died in the fire!). Leopold escapes from jail and makes it to a rental house owned by Nora Shelley (Jean Arthur). After a bit of craziness, she agrees to hide him until his lawyer can help him. The new renter, prominent law professor Lightcap, shows up 12 hours earlier than expected, though, and hilarity ensues.

Why Grant's last name is Dilg is beyond me. Leopold about his name: "Stop saying 'Leopold' like that, tenderly. It sounds funny. You can't do it with a name like Leopold"

One of the reasons I get a kick out of this movie, is that for the first portion of it, the professor sits around having discussions about the law with Leopold, who he is introduced to as Joseph the gardener. He is so pleased to have met a philosophical gardener that he can almost suppress his condescending tone when talking to him. (The professor often struggles to suppress this tone, for example when he proposes to Miss Shelley by telling her he has an opening for an important job in Washington. It would be “more than a secretary…It would be an important job for life…”) The professor is so taken with Joseph the gardener that he even takes the time to pick up a special order of borscht with a raw egg mixed in for him during a trip to town, because he knows that Joseph will be beside himself with joy when he gets the borscht. Here are the professor and Leopold bonding over chess...

Unfortunately for Leopold, the borscht leads to his downfall with the professor. As Professor Lightcap unwraps the newspaper from around the bottle of borscht, he sees Leopold's face on the front page of the paper. He has been tricked by Leopold and Miss Shelley! As the fine upholder of the law that he is, the professor goes right inside to call the police, leading to the following very calmly delivered but very emotional dialogue...

Leopold: "Well, here we have the two schools of thought, Professor, this time in action. That telephone to you means law and order, and to me…well, I've got to stop you using that telephone, with violence if necessary."
Professor Lightcap: "Yes, I see. That’s bad. I have a very warm feeling for you Joseph, but I must use this telephone."
Leopold: "And if you do, Professor, and I’m as fond of you as a brother, I’ll be compelled to knock you down."

Can you feel then tension between these two great friends? See the tension below...

Anyways, of course the Professor uses the telephone, Leopold knocks him out, and all kinds of new craziness ensues, including Miss Shelley's confusion over which man to pick.

Bonus: The professor and Miss Shelley arrive home with their borscht to find Leopold cooking, wearing a lovely women's apron with a giant bow over the butt. Apparently Cary Grant also thinks this scene is a great bonus, because we get to watch him check out his own butt.

Three stars, I think, and I'm sure I will watch it again. And not just because I own it!


Ms. Q said...

Wow! We should start a keyword for "Cary Grant in Women's Clothing"!

Ms. Q said...

Tivo just picked this up for us last weekend and we settled in on a rainy LA night (yes, that's right, it's been raining cats and dogs here in LA) to watch it.

Three comments:
1. there is nothing that can't be solved by a weekend (or two) in the country.
2. I had to check the year on this because a movie in which an anarchist is the hero MUST have come out prior to WWII. (1942 is about as late as it could be).
3. Three cheers for Jean Arthur's character! Spunky, funny, stubborn, awesome! Need to start Jean Arthur key word.