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I saw this film in 1950 when I was 15 years old. It was so long ago that I cannot comment on its artistic merits or defects. What I can say is that,whether it was because I was 15 or more likely that it brought an air of light and colour to a London which was drab and grey and still littered with bomb sites, it left an unforgettable impression on me that has lasted for over 50 years. What I do remember is that Robert Cummings played his part with a very pleasant lightness of touch and that Joan Caulfield exemplified perfectly the type of pretty girl that George Petty would have enjoyed painting. Perhaps it was guileless by modern standards but it also represented an era of relative innocence. I only wish that I could obtain a copy to see if my impression was justified.
Joan Caulfield is a prim but beautiful college professor. Robert Cummings is an artist with a talent for cheesecake art who has become "serious" but mediocre. After a series of humorous misadventures this improbable pair bring each other to see their true selves and find they have a lot in common. There's lots of feminine pulchritude and good humor throughout. While pretty tame by today's standards, this is still a fun movie.
Like the previous contributor I fondly remember the lovely Joan
Caulfield when I saw 'Girl of the year' at the Putney Odeon in London
around 1950. As a teen just becoming aware of girls, I saw it four or
five times !! The odd thing is the film was programmed with a Bing
Crosby trailer and I got to know one of Bing's songs quite well, which
years later won me a first prize in a BBC 'spot the tune' contest.
But best of all in the mid 1970s I met a gorgeous blonde lady on holiday in Greece. She was telling me that at one time she had been a Hollywood actress and showed me some old publicity pictures which I instantly recognised as being the wonderful Joan.
So having found this site I need to locate the film. I have a copy of 'Blue Skies' Best wishes to all Joan Caulfield fans.
The most fascinating aspect of THE PETTY GIRL (1950) for me is the use
under the credits and in some early scenes of actual pin-up girl
paintings by George Petty. These are pretty provocative renderings of
voluptuous females showing plenty of skin while adorned in sexy
outfits. The long bare legs are a dominant feature. The Petty Girl
illustrations were a lot like the Vargas Girl pin-ups that were popular
around the same time (and also featured in Esquire Magazine), although
the Vargas girls were much sexier and flirted more blatantly with
nudity. Still, the Petty Girl drawings seen in the film struck me as
something that might have pushed the boundaries of the Production Code
then dictating Hollywood's depiction of sexiness. I wonder if there was
any battle between the censors and the studio (Columbia) over this.
The film's protagonist, George Petty (played by Robert Cummings), is supposedly based on the actual artist. At the time of this production, Petty had been drawing these girls for Esquire Magazine since 1933 and would continue to do so for another six years. The film, however, has contrived a situation where he's supported by a rich patroness who has convinced him to give up pin-up girls and stick to "highbrow" artlandscapes and portraits. We are supplied with the unlikely notion that the highbrow art is "commercial" and makes him rich, while the pin-up girls are just for fun. (Apparently, the reverse was true for the real Petty.) When Petty meets Victoria Braymore (Joan Caulfield), a female professor from a stuffy, conservative New England college who is visiting New York, she's not offended by his pin-up art at all and insists that it constitutes his "real" art and he should stick to that. She eventually models for him in a blue bathing suit and, in a truly bizarre twist, stars in a burlesque show based on his pin-ups. None of this makes any sense and the film takes a fatal turn away from the art milieu for its entire middle section when the action shifts to Braymore College and Petty follows Victoria there (she's the descendant of the college's founder) and attempts to woo her and paint her. He even takes a job as busboy in the faculty kitchen in order to be close to her. There's a long, pointless slog of a "slapstick" sequence on a sailboat that neither of them is able to successfully pilot. We're away from the New York art-and-music scene for such a long time that the film loses its bearings.
The Technicolor photography and set design are very beautiful. The songs by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer are easily forgotten. The supporting cast includes the unlikely pair of Melville Cooper and Elsa Lanchester, although both are actually pretty funny. Joan Caulfield plays Victoria and she isn't bad. She's lively, charming, and nice-looking, but she just doesn't have the pulchritude of a proper Petty Girl. Someone sexier was needed. If they'd simply altered the character enough (i.e. dropped the superfluous college connection), Marilyn Monroe would have been perfect. (Check her out in ALL ABOUT EVE that same year.) Same problem with the many young women recruited to play Petty Girls in the burlesque show (one of them being a 20-year-old Tippi Hedren). None of them look remotely like Petty pin-ups. I just wish they'd devised a more suitable comic plot around a successful pin-up artist, completely unashamed about what he does, and the complications that ensue in his love life. Interestingly, Cummings later starred in a sitcom, "The Bob Cummings Show," with just that kind of premise, only he played a cheesecake photographer, rather than an illustrator. (In the film, Petty does indeed use the word, "cheesecake" to describe his pin-up art.)
I thought this was a pretty good culture clash movie. From 1950, a time
when American women were starting to be able to show some leg and
midriff, this movie shows quite well what older folks thought of these
new hussy's, and how young people started not caring what the old folks
thought. I'm sure this movie will mean little to those under 40, who
have known nothing except bikinis on the beach, but for those old
enough to remember such things, it was an interesting time and is well
But I suppose the culture clash aspect might translate to modern day youth. VERY few girls or women had tattoos or pierced belly buttons in the 1960's or 70's, and I'm sure today's young ladies couldn't care less about what grandma thinks about their "tramp stamps" and nose rings.
To say this movie is "quaint" is an understatement (a man and woman kissing in a parked car was considered disorderly conduct), but don't be surprised if people say the same thing about Pulp Fiction 50 years from now. And if I'm still alive when I'm 100, I'll be checking on those newest Pulp Fiction comments to find out if I'm right.
I saw "The Petty Girl" the other day, and it was my first time viewing the film. While Bob Cummings came through big as the artist in search of a model, I was captivated by the golden-haired beauty and charm of the late actress, Joan Caulfield ("Blue Skies," "Dear Ruth"). She was gorgeous. I liked her in "Blue Skies," with her blonde hair worn in a pompadour, and such an innocent look that I admired greatly. But in "The Petty Girl," she went beyond my expectations. She looked great in the blue bathing suit she wore, and her hair was in a pony-tail tied with a gold and, later, a blue scarf. It was the best that I have seen her in the few movies I've seen her do. I wish she would be better remembered by today's movie enthusiasts (critics). She was so radiant in her prime. But that's Hollywood. They want the public to remember the ones with the greatest fame as opposed to those whose careers were short or were transferred to television, like Joan's was. She will always be the beautiful, innocent blonde from the '40's. Some videos of her are in order. RIP, dear one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'The Petty Girl' is not a great comedy, but it certainly is watchable, and has a few good things going for it, lovely Technicolor photography, lovely Joan Caulfield, and handsome Robert Cummings, so, lots of 'eye candy'. Not many, if any, could play comedy as well as Robert Cummings, so even with mediocre material, he's still fun to watch, the voice over comments he makes at the start of the film are funny, and possibly the scenes on the yacht are the best? The wonderful Mary Wickes is wasted in a small part, Elsa Lancester steals most of her scenes, as does Melville Cooper, in the end, at 88 minutes, it's not too hard to take, and if you like the stars, they make up for any shortcomings in story, or script!
A terribly dated affair which I doubt was ever entertaining.
A supposed comedy with some musical elements. Neither the comedy nor the music works. The makers of the film appear to have a very narrow view of the world and all situations are forced to agree with this view. An avant garde artist is always impeccably dressed and groomed; the closest he comes to relaxing is loosening his tie. Is this really how it was in 1950?
Robert Cummings does his thing but he is dealing with very weak material set in a very unconvincing situation. Using "fuddy duddy" academia as the background is too lazy an option and doesn't work.
Overall, The Petty Girl is of possible interest to film buffs who search out quaint, unusual films and to fans of Robert Cummings. Otherwise, to be avoided. 2.75.
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