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Oliver Pease gets a dose of courage from his wife Martha and tricks the editor of the paper (where he writes lost pet notices) into assigning him the day's roving question. Martha suggests, "Has a little child ever changed your life?" Oliver gets answers from two slow-talking musicians, an actress whose roles usually feature a sarong, and an itinerant cardsharp. In each case the "little child" is hardly innocent: in the first, a local auto mechanic's "baby" turns out to be fully developed as a woman and a musician; in the second, a spoiled child star learns kindness; in the third, the family of a lost brat doesn't want him returned. And Oliver, what becomes of him? Written by
Charles Laughton portrayed a minister in one sequence which, because of its dramatic tone in an otherwise frothy comedy, wound up on the cutting room floor. Mr. Laughton's segment was replaced with a parody of Dorothy Lamour's South Seas movie epics. Independent producer David O. Selznick offered to buy the film in order to issue the Laughton sequence as a short, scrapping the rest of the picture. Selznick's plan was rejected by producer Benedict Bogeaus and producer-star Burgess Meredith. See more »
Before I committed to buying the DVD of "On Our Merry Way," I got it from Netflix and happy I am that I did so, for it's not likely I'd ever want to watch it again. "On Our Merry Way" is an anthology film in the manner of "O. Henry's Full House," but while the latter has a no-nonsense framework with John Steinbeck introducing the episodes, "On Our Merry Way" uses the gimmick of Burgess Meredith talking directly to the camera every so often. It doesn't work; it seems more like a vanity project for Meredith and his then wife Paulette Goddard.
Nor do the stories work. They are shaggy dog stories that bore you long before they reach a conclusion. The Henry Fonda-James Stewart and Fred MacMurray-William Demarest episodes are simply not funny. "On Our Merry Way" is full of overacting (especially from Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer) and shtick (from Victor Moore and Hugh Herbert). Dorothy Lamour, on the other hand,comes off extremely well both as an addle-pated secretary and then with a song that satirizes her own career; for Lamour it's a triumph over inferior material.
John O'Hara is credited for one of the stories, O. Henry is not, even though his "The Ransom of Red Chief" serves as the basis for the MacMurray-Demarest episode; for comparison, watch the Fred Allen-Oscar Levant take on the same story in "O. Henry's Full House." It's only minimally better but it moves faster.
It's inconceivable to me that so many great directors, credited or un-, would produce such a mess.
One can't help be grateful to Kino for clearing the copyright problems which had long kept the film in limbo; after all, we do want to preserve the work of our great stars, no matter how bad. But once our curiosity is satisfied, "On Our Merry Way" becomes a shelve-it-and-forget-it film.
For a much better pairing of Meredith and Goddard, I'd recommend Jean Renoir's English-language version of "The Diary of a Chambermaid."
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