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André De Toth
A bookish historian is married to a steely Southern belle who raises horses, an animal that he doesn't care for. However, the cute young neighbor girl doesn't feel that way about him and makes no bones about letting him know it.
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Mike Brannon is a former war hero turned midget car racer. His ruthless racing tactics have made him successful but the fans consider him a villain and boo him mercilessly. Independent, beautiful reporter Regina Forbes tries to interview him but is put off by his gruff chauvinism, and when Brannon's daredevil tactics cause the death of a fellow driver, he finds himself a pariah in the sport thanks to her articles. When she finds him earning money as a barnstorming daredevil driver hoping for a comeback, they begin to become mutually attracted. Written by
Because footage shot during the actual 1950 Indy 500 was used, Mauri Rose can be seen exiting the pits driving past the pit for the real car #17, Joie Chitwood (Mauri Rose and Joie Chitwood's pits were next to each other during the 1950 500 race). See more »
Great racing scenes (Indy style) but they get in the way of plot development
To Please a Lady (1950)
Amazingly, this is from post-war America. It feels like a movie from the 1930s, both technically and the way the story is told. Even the stars, though both obviously alive and still working, are better known for their earlier work.
I'm speaking of Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck. And they have a certain degree of good chemistry on screen, though the story is so "constructed" (I'm avoiding the better word "contrived") you don't always feel what they are feeling, as characters. The one scene that does this best is an extended dinner at a club where a string orchestra is playing and they fall in love and then seem to fall out of love quickly. It's really beautiful and romantic (and the strings are as lush as any string section has sounded, and I mean it).
Because of all these things this ends up being both a great fun movie and a bit of a throwback that doesn't quite take off. The director, Clarence Brown, is also known best for much earlier movies (like the award winning pre-code "A Free Soul" which is fabulous). He's good, the acting is good, and the story is, well, pretty good. It's serviceable, but a little too packaged and somewhat thin going.
Another factor here is the racing itself, the Indianapolis 500. Some of the footage is clearly from real races (probably the 1949 or 1950 race...this movie was released in the fall of 1950). There are lots of scenes--too many, unless you are car racing fan--of cars zooming around the track. Credit goes to the cinematographer, Harold Rosson, who is a bit legendary because he helped with "Wizard of Oz" and did several other classics like "Asphalt Jungle" and "The Bad Seed." The photography matters more than usual here because it's "just" car racing, and it's made exciting and visually intense. Closeups of Gable in the car are of course constructed in the studio, but seemalessly. Great visuals throughout.
See this? You bet, but remember it's really an entertainment, and it has little complexity or depth, and it has lots and lots of race track stuff that doesn't propel the plot, just the immediate energy. It's no classic, but it has classic qualities and faces, for sure, and I liked it. And in the end, without giving a thing away, the woman (Stanwyck) stays strong and keeps her independence, a rare thing in 1950s movies.
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