Princess O’Rourke – 1943
Princess Maria of (Ruritania, I suppose) is a WWII refugee in New York. Her country is occupied, most of her family is either dead or abroad, leaving her only with her uncle (not to mention a large and loyal staff, and an extensive community of noble expatriates.) Nevertheless, she is depressed and bored; her uncle prescribes a trip to the west coast. There is a problem: Maria is terrified of flying. The solution suggested is sleeping pills. Only, as the plot winds on, Maria ends up taking six sleeping pills and the flight gets canceled–leading to her spending the night at the pilot’s apartment.
As it may be imagined, events ensue from there. (His friend’s wife undressed her.)
Like Back to Bataan, this movie is also wartime propaganda; but as a romantic comedy, rather than a gritty war drama. Eddie is about to report for duty in the Air Force, and considers this the most worthwhile and important thing he’s ever chosen to do. Along with being required to give up his American citizenship, what finally proves the breaking point for Eddie’s cooperation with the Ruritianian royalty is their insistence that he will be given a non-combat post. His speech regarding these issues is a little on the nose, but it’s delivered with sincerity (and humor).
Another point in this movie’s favor is: it is mildly funny. Olivia de Havilland, was extremely beautiful and a great actress–especially in seemingly simplistic or otherwise unrewarding roles.
Unfortunately, the romance fails to catch me, mostly because Robert Cummings, as Eddie O’Rourke, is rather a twerp.
Still, it’s earned a good three and a half stars, so…
– Maria imagining herself as a caged bird, followed in the next shot by Olivia de Havilland, utterly deadpan, chirping at her uncle.
– The rather clever way Maria’s uncle’s good-natured misogyny helps Eddie’s case. He is of the opinion that, while the war is on, Maria should be having babies–boys, preferably. At this point, we think he’s a stodgy old snob who will only be obstructive to her plans of marrying a commoner–and he’s quite hostile when Eddie pops up. Until the reports from the background check come in: Eddie is the sixth son of his family–out of nine….all boys. And his father was one of eleven boys. “Remarkable!”
– “Your child will be Alfred the Eighth.” “That’s nothing, we’ll start over with Eddie the First.”
– “That was no guard you bumped into. That was the President.” “….holy mackerel. I tipped him a buck. And he took it!”
Rated: six sleeping pills out of six. (Or nine out of eleven boys).
The Wicked Lady – 1945
Margaret Lockwood is the titular Lady, Barbara, who steals her best friend’s fiance from right under her nose, gets bored with him, and takes to highway robbery to assuage her boredom; Patricia Roc is Caroline, the disappointed but preternaturally-obliging fiancee; and a good-looking but wispy guy named Griffith Something-or-other is the guy who makes what he soon realizes is the worst mistake of his life, Sir Ralph. Felix Aylmer (you know, That Guy from all those old movies. The slow-voiced, solemn one with the dolorous accent. He was in Ivanhoe and I think Ben-Hur, and the Olivier Henry V, now that I think of it) is the old retainer who cottons on to Lady Barbara’s secret but not to the extent of avoiding drinks served by her.
Michael Rennie is Kit, the guy who falls in love with Barbara but settles for Caroline, but yet somehow manages to retain most of his integrity. Despite openly macking on Barbara at her own wedding dance, dayum. James Mason is the gallant highwayman Captain Jerry Jackson with whom Barbara takes up professional and personal relations, until they have a falling-out and things unavoidably spiral out of control from thence.
And basically, that’s about what happens.
Watch it for the lady, (“oh my gosh! She is wicked! She’s poisoning the man!”) watch it for the men (“He ain’t that good-looking.” “Yeah, but he’s rich.” / “He mackin’ on her right there in front of everybody!” / “Is that James Mason?” “Mmm-hmm.” “He aight.” “Listen to his voice!” “…It aight.”); watch it with bated breath to see who is going to end up on Barbara’s wrong side. It’s a good little movie with plenty of excitement and interest, and a little bit of poigniancy at the end.
Rated: I’d take to the roads for Michael Rennie or James Mason.
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