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The "Morning Star" is in trouble: J.B. Allenbury, rich and mighty, will sue them for 2 million dollars for an article which says that his daughter is chasing after married men. Reporter Bill Chandler is sent after Connie to prove that the story is actually true. The only problem is that he's not married....yet. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
As the other comments here indicate, it's highly instructive to compare LIBELED LADY to this remake, EASY TO WED. A decade brought a huge difference in style between the Thalberg-approved slangy courtship of slapstick repartee and the plush, earnest romance of Louis B. Mayer's MGM of the '40s.
Lucille Ball steals this picture with a very well-judged comic performance, aided by director Edward Buzzell, who clearly throws many scenes her way. What will surprise those who know her primarily from "I Love Lucy" is to see how much of her comic shtick is already on view here, completely developed and intact. The drunk scene, the little voices, the 'takes,' stares, reactions and expressions are familiar in every way as Lucy Ricardo. Ball also never looked more beautiful than in this film, with her hair as metallic and bright as a new penny, and in a series of witty and gorgeous costumes by Irene, who does just as well by Esther Williams.
But those who are critical of Ball's performance, particularly in contrast to Jean Harlow's in LIBELED LADY, are right. Harlow was a natural, a wonderful, winning and unique personality, whose blustering scenes of anger were always justified, always expressing her common sense and dignity. The dirty little secret about why Lucille Ball never made it as a movie star was that despite her professionalism and beauty, she was essentially a strident and cold personality. What Harlow did naturally, Ball works very hard to achieve so that we admire her pyrotechnics without ever warming up to her. By the time of "I Love Lucy" she had begun to disguise her intensity with clutziness and feigned vulnerability and stupidity. And like Katharine Hepburn, she learned that if Lucy was reined-in by a man once in a while, audiences could forgive her for her aggressiveness.
There is relatively little of Esther Williams' swimming in this picture. At this mid-'40s point, MGM was pushing her versatility to see just how much she could do, how far she could go. I happen to think that her screen presence (even when out of the water) is underrated. She had a refreshing, no-nonsense self confidence that is very American, and she was sexy in a way that is never blatant. The fact that this statuesque beauty with her strong physical presence and perfect carriage never acts seductively or coyly creates an unexpected sexual tension, especially in her early films (she lost a bit of it later as her body became thicker and more athletic). You can see how some would feel moved to ruffle her composure, warm her up, 'get' to her in some way, because she seems oblivious to her femininity while brimming over with it. Which is what makes her seem an emblematic American movie star. In the first half of this picture she gives a good account of the kind of frigid glamor girl that Alexis Smith often played at Warners.' When she finally melts, it's lovely, though she is better photographed in both THRILL OF A ROMANCE and THIS TIME FOR KEEPS (where she rates closeups by Karl Freund that make her look almost impossibly, lustrously beautiful).
A word about MGM's '40s Technicolor -- I love it. Many films from this period as screened on TCM seem to have been saved, restored, remastered for video tapes and DVDs. All of Esther Williams' color films from the mid-'40s are a visual treat with bright, deeply saturated color and sharp images, though a few scenes in EASY TO WED seem unaccountably muddy and soft, with desaturated color. And in one scene Ball wears a frosty blue costume that we have been told is green. Maybe they should take a look at this print before they put this film out on DVD.
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