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S. Sylvan Simon
After the accidental death of an idiot heir, a stunt man is hired to impersonate him while the family gathers to determine the dispersment of the estate of Miss Tatlock's millions. Written by
Richard Blinkal <email@example.com>
John Lund always gave a good performance, but for some reason he was always relegated to background acting: that is he was present, frequently in the lead male part, but somehow his role did not stand out enough to be recognized. His first big film was TO EACH HIS OWN where he played two roles - a World War I American ace who meets the heroine, Olivia De Haviland, while on a bond drive in upstate New York, has a passionate, brief affair with her, gets killed, and reappears some twenty years later as his own illegitimate son, raised as an adopted child by De Haviland's neighbors. It should have been the role(s) to establish him - but it didn't, because the bulk of TO EACH HIS OWN was De Haviland's part as the mother who loses her son. In fact, the son is played by a child actor, for part of the film - and is more memorable to the audience than Lund.
His banner year would be 1948. He appeared in two films that year that showed his acting strengths: A FOREIGN AFFAIR with Marlene Dietrich and Jean Arthur (directed by Billy Wilder), and this film, MISS TATLOCK'S MILLIONS. A FOREIGN AFFAIR is a wonderful comedy of post-war Berlin by Wilder, with Lund as an army black marketeer who is trying to protect himself and his girlfriend (Marlene) from a Congressional junket investigating black marketeers (including Jean). He does very nicely in the comic bits, misleading and confusing Arthur, and slowly becoming aware that he may be giving misplaced protection to a former Nazi supporter (Dietrich). But the real stars are Arthur (doing crazy undercover investigation) and Dietrich (given several good Frederick Hollander numbers to sing. And Wilder's screenplay with Charles Brackett, as well as his direction are overwhelming on Lund too.
But Lund does dominate (wisely) MISS TATLOCK'S MILLIONS, as the Hollywood stuntman turned fake heir. Richard Haydn (in one of his rare directing jobs) allowed Lund to take off on the eccentric "Schuyler" Tatlock, who loves to set fires, and wants to make his sister (Wanda Hendrix) happy. Schuyler escapes from his "keeper" Barry Fitzgerald, and apparently perished in a fire. But this was before the death of his grandparents, and he is one of the heirs to their fortune, much to the disgust of his aunt and two uncles (Ilka Chase, Monty Wooley, and Dan Tobin). Ilka would also like to keep Wanda's share of the fortune close to home by marrying her to her son Robert Stack.
There is a fly in the ointment. Fitzgerald has been keeping mum about the demise of Schuyler because it allowed him to live on his salary in the South Sea island they lived on. Now is his day of reckoning, and to prevent it he discovers that Lund (a Hollywood stuntman) looks like Schuyler. So he makes a business proposition: play the role of Schuyler for a week or so, until the will is read, and then "return" with Fitzgerald to the South Seas. Lund agrees to this - and then learns it's easier to assume a role sometimes than to drop it.
For one thing, he (unlike the real Schuyler) understands human nature. He is supposed to be a half-wit, so everyone (but Wanda) treats him with a bare contempt. And he resents it, and manages (while maintaining his act) to humiliate them. For a second thing, he finds he's physically and emotionally attracted to Wanda - and he detests Stack. Finally, the family lawyer (Haydn, in a nice cameo), reveals that the bulk of the fortune was given to Schuyler, rather than to the others. This certainly means that Fitzgerald cannot drag such a wealthy figure back to their former island home.
An accidental fall, causing Lund to momentarily sound normal, also adds to the problems. The new "normal" Schulyer Tatlock is able to communicate his feelings to Hendrix - although his ultimate feelings have to be hidden, as an incestuous relationship is impossible.
This comedy finally enabled Lund to show he was not just a dependable male lead. He was shown to be capable of insane comic antics as Schuyler. The result was a pleasure up to the satisfactory conclusion of the comedy. It was John Lund's finest hour on screen.
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