The divorce of Hugh and Miriam Halsworth becomes final at midnight. Hugh wouldn't dream of calling it off, but can't abandon his rose garden. Things change that afternoon, though, when Miriam's old suitor Victor Macfarland checks into the hotel where Hugh is publicity man. With Miriam's daughter Barbara rooting for Hugh and son-in-law Jerry rooting for Victor, things are unlikely to be resolved by midnight... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Claudette Colbert, Macdonald Carey, Zachary Scott, Robert Wagner, Barbara Bates, and Marilyn Monroe star in "Let's Make it Legal," a 1951 20th Century Fox comedy. It's a fast little black and white film about a divorcing couple, the Hugh Halsworths (Colbert and Carey), their daughter Barbara (Bates) and her new husband Jerry (Wagner).
The premise is that the Halsworths are divorcing because Hugh is a compulsive gambler and Miriam, his wife, has had about all she can stand. So they've separated and the divorce is final at midnight. But Hugh is always hanging around, spraying his roses or entering the house on some other excuse.
Their daughter is having marital adjustment problems: She loves her mother waiting on her hand and foot and taking care of the new baby, but her husband wants them to have their own place. Barbara hopes her parents will get back together, which Jerry attributes to her selfish motives. In the midst of all this, an old boyfriend of Barbara's (Scott) enters the picture and proposes.
This film is of interest due to an early appearance of Marilyn Monroe as a sexy young woman most anxious to meet the very wealthy Victor (Scott). It's also of interest to me because Colbert and Carey play young grandparents - not young people playing characters supposed to be older, but actual young grandparents. You don't see much of that in classic era films. Hugh tells Scott he married Miriam right out of school. (In actuality, Carey was about 38 at this time and Colbert was 48).
"Let's Make it Legal" is also of interest as a look at how the studios worked. This isn't a big movie, so it's used as a training ground for two contract players, Wagner and Bates, neither of whom are very good. The studio probably appeased agent Johnny Hyde, who was ambitious for his client Monroe by giving her a small role. They used the film as a vehicle for Colbert, who in Hollywood, though still beautiful, is past her sell by date and relegated to less expensive films, as well as the washed up Scott. They pair her with a B leading man, Carey, whose big success was in television.
This isn't a great movie. It's light, it's amusing, it's somewhat dated. Seeing Colbert is always a pleasure and Carey was an amiable actor, Scott an attractive one. Sadly both Bates, who later committed suicide, and Scott suffered from depression. Scott at this point in his career concentrated on stage and television work.
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