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Kenny Williams, a lieutenant on the homicide squad, is engaged to Maxine Carroll, the Mayor's secretary. Or isn't he rather married with his job? For each time he has a date with his longtime fiancée, he is prevented from keeping it by his devotion to duty. Maxine, in desperation, decides to take action and bring Kenny to the altar. Who will win, Maxine's curves or the glorious fight against crime? Written by
There's nothing amazing about 'The Amazing Mr Williams'. Part of this movie's problem is its lead actor Melvyn Douglas. He was a lousy actor and lazy with it. For most of his career, he allowed his good looks, a glib manner and (usually, but not in this movie) some fine scriptwriting to make up for his lack of acting ability. I disliked Douglas as an actor before I knew anything about him as a person; I've learnt enough about him to know that I also despise his politics. I'll give Melvyn Douglas credit for one thing: his chromosomes did produce the incredibly talented and sexy actress Illeana Douglas.
Melvyn Douglas made this movie right after the brilliant 'Ninotchka' ... talk about a comedown! 'The Amazing Mr Williams' is allegedly a comedy, but I never laughed. Douglas plays a plainclothes detective on the homicide squad, named Kenny Williams. I never heard of a police detective named Kenny, but if they called him Kenneth Williams ... well, what a carry-on. The whole city is in a panic because a serial killer is going about, killing women. No motive is given for this; he just likes to kill women. The mayor (Jonathan Hale, better than usual) calls Williams on the carpet to account for his failure to catch the killer.
SPOILERS APPROACHING. The cheap, vulgar, untalented and unattractive Joan Blondell plays the mayor's secretary. (She doesn't sound literate enough to file a letter, much less type one.) Blondell and Douglas squabble like a cat and a dog, so it's blatantly obvious they're going to end up together.
At this movie's lowest point, Melvyn Douglas decides to draw out the killer by dressing up as a woman. You do NOT want to see Melvyn Douglas in drag! He's well over six foot, and he doesn't even shave off that annoying moustache. The similarly-'tashed William Powell was an actor very similar in type to Melvyn Douglas (but much more talented). When Powell disguised himself as a woman in 'Love Crazy', he had the integrity to shave off his moustache: a genuine sacrifice, as Powell needed it to grow in again for his next role. But Melvyn Douglas brings nothing whatever to his role in this movie, not even a razor. He plays his drag scenes with the same annoying smirk he used throughout the bulk of his career.
On the plus side, 'The Amazing Mr Williams' has several of those splendid supporting players who made Hollywood's movies of the '30s so delightful. Edward Brophy is brilliant here, touching and funny as a criminal who gets an unlikely furlough from his life sentence. The dyspeptic Donald MacBride is fine as a cop who gets mistaken for the killer, and is nearly lynched by a mob. Ruth Donnelly is splendid: as usual for her, but here she gets a chance to show her talents away from her usual orbit on the Warner Brothers backlot. Jimmy Conlin, Luis Alberni and the grinning Dave Willock are all fine in small roles. Barbara Pepper (whom I usually dislike) is good here too. The grossly unpleasant Maude Eburne gets some screen time; I always loathe her, and she gives the same performance in every film ... but some audiences enjoy Eburne's one-note performance very much, for reasons I can't fathom.
If you're familiar with Hollywood character actors of the 1930s, and the roles they tended to play, one glance at IMDb's cast list will tell you who the murderer is. That's the problem with 'The Amazing Mr Wiliams': everything is too obvious. I'll rate this movie 2 points out of 10.
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