Saturday, February 18, 2012

Late Rally Fails

Leo McCarey helped create the Laurel and Hardy team and directed the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (1933). For that work alone he deserves to be remembered.  He'd go on to become one of Hollywood's preeminent directors, helming huge hits and winning Oscars for The Awful Truth (1937) and Going My Way (1944).  However, after the war, he made fewer films and the ones he did make were less notable.  He seemed to be running out of ideas.

Take his next-to-last film, Rally 'Round The Flag, Boys! (1958), which I recently saw.  His previous film, An Affair To Remember (1957), was a remake of the superior Love Affair (1939), and RRTFB seems to be an attempt to return to an all-out, wilder comedy style.

The film is based on a satirical novel by Max Shulman.  This was the 50s, and writers were mocking suburbia.  Unfortunately, McCarey seems to have lost a step, and is a bit too obvious in his approach.  I'm glad he's trying, but like other great directors of the 30s (Capra, Hawks), he's finding out comedy is a young man's game.

He's not helped by star Paul Newman, who doesn't quite have the chops to pull off the farce.  Joanne Woodward as the wife and Joan Collins as the hot-to-trot neighbor are better, but it still doesn't quite work.  And when the military plot comes in (the army is building a secret base in their town) the satire and general lunacy is too much to take.

PS  Tuesday Weld and Dwayne Hickman have small roles as a couple.  They'd star next year in the Dobie Gillis TV show, also based on the work of Max Shulman.

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