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The chief virtue of this film is the marvelous casting, which could hardly
be better. And there's a pleasing variety to the episodes. That said, the
edge to the writing and direction is definitely not as keen as one would
like. To give just one example of the problem: A letter is sent to each
couple, telling them that, through a technicality, they're not really
married. In the opening sequence, we hear the letter dictated. At the
appropriate point in each installment, the letter is introduced with a
special musical theme, and the reader of the letter reacts appropriately.
But then, each time, just to make the point completely clear, we are shown
close-up of the identically worded letter. Another example: Paul Douglas
dreams of dates with beautiful girls, AND DREAMS, AND DREAMS... Also,
though one suspects that Fred Allen had a hand in the writing of his
sequence--a parody of radio breakfast couples--here, too, the satire is a
little too obvious, their banter being merely a string of not especially
clever product plugs (one of them having the miracle ingredient, chicken
Calhern rises above the heavily ironic divorce-lawyer skit, and James Gleason gives one of his finest performances as a hick hustler promoting Marilyn Monroe in a fledgling Mrs. America contest. Had the rest of the film been as sharp as Gleason's well written and well performed characterization, it could have been a classic. The final sequence is the most successful, because of the fine, unaffected performances of Gaynor and Bracken (particularly the latter) and probably also because Goulding was most at home with this simple romance. A point of interest in the film as a whole is how much attitudes about marriage have changed since the film was made.
AMC has shown an amusing deleted sequence with Walter Brennan in its HIDDEN HOLLYWOOD series.
Victor Moore, as a justice of the peace, who didn't realize that his
authority to marry people didn't start until January 1. Therefore, all
people he had previously married prior to this date were determined not
to be married legally and were notified accordingly.
Here is where the fun begins. As would be the case in comedies, many of the couples don't have the best of marriages and some might use this as an excuse to exit from the scene.
The most hilarious of the group is the marriage between Zsa Zsa Gabor and Louis Calhern. She tries to get him involved with a hooker so that she can divorce him and under California law qualify for millions due to that state's laws. Does he turn the tables on her when it's determined that they're not married!
Marilyn Monroe has a bring fling as a beauty contestant in a Mrs. contest. When she wins, she is naturally ineligible as she and David Wayne aren't legally wed. Wayne uses this to his advantage to get Marilyn to stay home and take care of their youngster instead.
Thanks to the snafu, Eddie Bracken has married Mitzi Gaynor who finds herself pregnant as Bracken receives the news of their illegal marriage while being shipped off in the army. How the 2 manage to wed to provide the legitimacy cover for the baby is quite amusing.
Paul Douglas dreams of what the single life could be when he finds out that he is not wed to Eve Arden. Surprisingly, Arden is much restrained here. Amazing that her comic gifts were not utilized.
Fred Allen is awfully good along with his talk-show host wife Ginger Rogers, who battle off-air while fooling the public on their morning radio show. Isn't this a take-off of Dorothy Kilgallen and her husband Dick Kalmar?
A pleasant film. Before you wed, view the credentials of the person marrying you!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We're Not Married (Edmund Goulding, 1952) is a series of star-studded
short stories that's at its best when it's being sweet - not cynical.
While its structure recalls If I Had a Million, which gave each of its
main characters $1m to spank on the ventures of their choice, the story
is reminiscent of Hitchcock's impressively tedious screwball comedy, Mr
and Mrs Smith. Victor Moore sets the plot in motion as an over-eager,
though slow-speaking, justice of the peace who starts marrying people
before his licence permits. When the error is uncovered a couple of
years later, five marriages are struck out, with the explanatory
letters arriving at some critical juncture, giving the couples the
chance to stick or twist.
As with perhaps my favourite anthology, Night on Earth, we start with the weakest story. The 'Glad Gladwyns', radio DJs Fred Allen and Ginger Rogers, are luvvy-duvvy on the air, bicker in the office and don't speak at home. Their story is mostly predictable and mostly miserable, stuffed with those leaden barbs that cinema enjoyed aiming at its rival medium during this period (see also: A Letter to Three Wives, It's Always Fair Weather) - including a string of audio adverts that seem to go on forever. Hmm. Anyway, onwards and upwards... The second chapter compensates by being pretty darn great: if you can imagine a good version of Lady Godiva Rides Again, made in America and lasting about 10 minutes - then it's like that. Marilyn Monroe is the reigning Mrs Mississippi, gunning for the regional beauty queen crown until she gets that letter, rendering her ineligible. David Wayne is in good form as her stay-at-home husband, changing nappies and avoiding sarky remarks from the postman until his trump card arrives. There are a couple of fantastic jokes in this one, which has a modern sense of humour along with its very '50s trappings, and buzzes with an energy most of the other segments don't possess.
Paul Douglas and Eve Arden are the next couple: again we're on slightly bleak ground, with the husband's motive for staying put leaving a sour taste - quite aside from not being that funny. Better, if no less cheery, is part four, in which multi-millionaire Louis Calhern is given the run-around by canny 'wife' Zsa Zsa Gabor, only to find a most unexpected escape route. The scene in which Calhern is framed by his partner's cohorts is funny, but we're ultimately asked to root for a bland if trusting financial weasel who's put a third of his money in secret accounts. Admittedly his wife is even more objectionable than he is. Happily, the movie saves its best for last, with a comic and moving segment reminiscent of star Eddie Bracken's collaborations with Preston Sturges - if lacking the touch of genius associated with that director. Bracken plays a soldier who's about to sail for overseas when he finds out that the baby he's expecting is going to be born out of wedlock. So he calls for his girl to join him and goes AWOL, dodging the Military Police as he tries to get hitched. It's madcap, in an agreeable way, with Bracken ideally cast as the eternally unlucky, put-upon little guy trying to do the right thing. There's also a small part for Lee Marvin, playing Bracken's army buddy. Finally, we get a brief coda giving a delayed wrap-up to the Rogers-Allen sequence that possesses more charm than the whole of the earlier chapter, and providing a fitting finale for Douglas and Arden. It's not a great film, but two of the five segments work really well and there's enough star power for the others to just about skirt by.
Back in the '50s, a common sitcom episode was the married couple
finding out that they're not legally married.
"We're Not Married," a 1952 film, has five such couples, including Fred Allen and Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe and David Wayne, Eve Arden and Paul Douglas, Eddie Bracken and Mitzi Gaynor, and Louis Calhern and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
There were several episodic, anthology-type films from this period. "We're Not Married" deals with five very different couples and what the notice of non-marriage means to each couple. There's a wealthy man (Calhern) married to a gold digger (Gabor), a bickering husband and wife radio couple (Allen and Rogers), a couple in a slump (Paul Douglas and Eve Arden), an ambitious young woman and her husband (Monroe and Wayne) etc.
The best is the Calhern-Gabor, and Allen and Rogers make a good team and give bright performances. There are some funny sequences throughout.
Mores have changed a lot since this film, but it makes for pleasant watching with good direction by Edmund Goulding.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fred Allen, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, David Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Eve Arden, Mitzi Gaynor, Eddie Braken, Paul Douglas, Jane Darnell, James Gleason, Paul Stewart AND Zsa Zsa Gabor! Now that's MY idea of an all-star cast! Yes, "We're Not Married" is a light comedy for sure, but an enjoyable one. I for one got a kick out of the scene in which Zsa Zsa is raking her husband over the coals in a divorce settlement only to find out that she's not actually married! Call it art half imitating life! For anyone who loves films from the 30s,40s and 50s, this is a minor gem that should be seen at least once. I had thought I'd seen every movie that I'd ever enjoy at least once, so this came as a very welcome surprise. I just saw it on AMC which meant lots of commercial stops, so look for it on the Fox Movie Channel.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a clever sketch comedy movie about what happens when a half
dozen couples discover that they are not legally married. All of the
sketches are amusing and one or two are hilarious and it stars some of
the best character and up and coming actor and actresses that Hollywood
had to offer at the time (Ginger Rogers, Louis Calhern, Marilyn Monroe,
David Wayne, Eddie Bracken, Paul Douglas, Eve Arden, one of the Gabor
sisters and many more).
However, as an attorney, I cannot help but mention that the technical legal flaw that in the movie causes the invalidation of these marriages (the fact that the Justice of the Peace's term of office did not actually start until a few days after the marriages were celebrated) probably would not actually matter at all. The law of most states states that if a couple goes through the legal forms of marriage in good faith and then lives and present themselves to the world as a married couple for a substantial period of time, they ARE married in the eyes of the law despite any minor technical quibbles to the contrary. In fact, in many places a couple that does not even bother to go through with a marriage ceremony but lives together and acts like a married couple can be considered legally man and wife (this is sometimes known as a "common law marriage.")
So much as I enjoyed seeing the greedy Gabor sister stymied when she tries to take Louis Calhern to the cleaners in their divorce settlement, I am afraid that under the community property law of California he would still be obliged to pay up. And Eddie Bracken and Mitzi Gaynor's characters need not be concerned about the status of their unborn child, there is no question under the law that the little tyke would be regarded as legitimate.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the early 1950s there were several episodic movies that came out of
20th Century Fox, two of which had early performances of Marilyn
Monroe. The two were O'HENRY'S FULL HOUSE and this film, WE'RE NOT
MARRIED! The O'Henry anthology had stories that were funny ("The Ransom
of Red Chief") and stories that were moving ("The Gift of the Magi"),
and stories that were tragic ("The Last Leaf"). But WE'RE NOT MARRIED!
was pure comedy, and as such worked quite well.
It is based on an old plot ploy that turns up in other films, like Hitchcock's MR. AND MRS. SMITH. What happens to a married couple, after a couple of years of marriage, when they discover that there is a flaw in their marriage that invalidates it? Like MR. AND MRS. SMITH, the flaw here is the legality of the license...of the justice of the peace. And in WE'RE NOT MARRIED, the nice but bumbling justice of the peace is Victor Moore. Moore had gotten word that he was appointed to the job, and began marrying as soon as he got the letter. He did not notice that he was not to marry anyone until a particular date. As a result there are at least six couples that he married who are technically living in sin.
How do they handle the problem? In MR. AND MRS. SMITH, Robert Montgomery's attempt to dismiss it as a minor problem almost destroyed his marriage (as Carole Lombard wonders what kind of man he really is). Here the stories are able to look at the situation carefully. The results are far more cynical in three cases.
Louis Calhern, a millionaire, marries Zsa Zsa Gabor (a gold digger) who arranges to frame him so she can divorce him and get a bundle. Calhern, confused and not knowing what to do, gets the letter from Moore and suddenly realizes Gabor has no legal standing to do anything (this was long before the concept of "palimony"). Suddenly, to the consternation of her attorney (Paul Stewart) and Gabor, not only is Calhern cooperative, but he's positively full of information about hidden assets. At the very conclusion he drops the shoe on Zsa Zsa by giving her the letter as a personal message of a deep feeling for her. As he leaves the room we hear her faint.
Walter Brennan (in a section of the film that was cut originally but has been restored) is a backwoods Lothario who loves to charm Hope Emerson. Emerson is married with several kids (which Brennan knows about) but he keeps saying how he'd love to marry her if only she were free (Brennan does this because he really loves Emerson's cooking - charmed by him she is feeding his lying face). Then she gets the letter from Moore, and asks Brennan to read it (Hope can't read). Brennan realizes what it's about, and hastily lies about the contents, and says it is junk mail. Then he destroys it. Little does he realize, after that sequence ends, that Moore and his wife (Jane Darwell) are discussing the rural address and problems of delivery there, and decide to send a second copy just to be certain.
Paul Douglas is married to Eve Arden, but their marriage is in one of those rut periods. When he gets the letter, he starts imagining his new freedom, dating another good looking woman each night. Only at the end of this dream does he suddenly envision the cost of such a lifestyle (an expensive cost for 1952). At the end he decides to forget about the gorgeous women and look at how nice, peaceful, and stable that rut he's in really is.
There are also stories involving Mitzi Gaynor and Eddie Bracken, Marilyn Monroe and David Wayne, and (possibly best) Fred Allan and Ginger Rogers as a bickering couple who are like Dorothy Kilgallen and her husband Dick Kalmar on radio's "Breakfast With Dorothy and Dick". While not the greatest of film comedies, it's pretty consistently amusing in getting as much mileage out of the central plot ploy. Certainly worth watching and enjoying when it turns up on television.
This is another early Marilyn Monroe picture; in this case, it's a compendium of stories involving a handful of marriages presided over by reliable Victor Moore which are discovered to have been illegal because his term of office hadn't yet officially started when the ceremony was performed! So, he's made to send each of these a letter explaining the awkward situation and, according to where they stand at that particular moment in their married life, see how they decide to act upon it. The couples are played by Fred Allen and Ginger Rogers, David Wayne and Marilyn Monroe, Paul Douglas and Eve Arden, Louis Calhern and Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Eddie Bracken and Mitzi Gaynor. The least episode is the one with Douglas and Arden, where the latter becomes suspicious of just what goes on during the former's business trips; the Calhern-Gabor episode is mildly interesting for having her turn out a schemer planning to appropriate her husband's fortune with the help of shyster lawyer Paul Stewart until he's saved by the propitious arrival of Moore's letter!; Wayne has a hard time adjusting because of Monroe's triumph in a "Mrs. Mississippi" contest believing his troubles over when the marriage is revealed to have been null, his 'wife' promptly enrolls in a "Miss Mississippi" competition (which, naturally, she wins); Bracken is a soldier who goes AWOL in order to consolidate his wedding vows when it transpires that his child (whose birth is imminent) may be declared illegitimate Lee Marvin appears briefly as Bracken's buddy in this, one of the two most satisfying episodes; the other is the one featuring constantly-bickering pair Rogers and Allen, which unbearable situation threatens to sink their early-morning radio show (where they're ironically billed as the ideal married couple)! Again, the film is handled with utmost professionalism and is undeniably entertaining while it's on but which now feels dated and undistinguished.
A previous person described this film as "fluff." This is a perfect
word to describe it, and should contain a capital "F."
But it's also entertaining and interesting. It has a host of 1930's and 1940's actors (and some pre-dating talking pictures), as well "youngsters," Mitzi Gaynor, Marilyn Monroe and Lee Marvin (latter in an uncredited bit part).
The premise is pristine, and the "plot" revolves in a silly fashion around the supposed customs of that period, with people scurrying about with issues which wouldn't warrant any dramatic presentation today.
The thin plot involves several couples whose marriages were ruled invalid by the governor, since they were married by a justice-of-the-peace, near the end of the year sometime back, with his certification not valid until the following January 1st.
Rogers and Allen are a pair with a morning "couples" radio program (seemingly consisting of nothing but sponsor plugs and inane "nasty-nice" banter), with a sham marriage for purely economic purposes. Bracken and Gaynor are a young couple who need to be remarried before his army unit embarks, or else their expected child won't be legitimate, but (according to his sergeant) "a foul ball." Golddigger Gabor (not a stretch here) literally faints when the letter from the governor arrives at her wealthy husband's (Calhoun) office, while her lawyer is discussing her plundering his assets during a divorce settlement (precipitated by a set-up when a fully-clothed impostor, who resembles a conservatively-dressed elementary teacher poses as his wife in a hotel room, for about three minutes, while her confederates note the incident).
Although released in 1952, this is strictly a "40's" flick. Even then, certainly the governor would simply have effected a special edict making these unions legitimate, and even if not, Gabor, however devious her purpose, would have been able to claim some sort of common-law entitlement, or rights under whatever passed for "palimony" then.
Still, it's now a nostalgic piece, with nearly all the thespians gone, except for a couple or so, including Zsa Zsa, now 90, plus however many years are still fudged from her birth date.
It's a clever premise, but the results have dated rather badly.
Unfortunately, the comedy level never reaches the sparkle it needs,
though the opening vignette (Rogers and Allen) comes close. Perhaps
that's not surprising given Director Goulding's credits, which suggest
he's more at home with Bette Davis melodrama than with material of this
sort. Also, I'm surprised a big-budget studio like Fox didn't film this
in Technicolor, which would have added a lot to the atmospherics.
Instead, we get dour gray tones that undercut the light-hearted mood,
making the movie look older than it is. But then, 1952 was a year
Hollywood was looking to retool in the face of TV's onslaught. The
following year would see an explosion of wide- screen color beyond the
reach of the livingroom tube. As a result, this comedy venture may have
been caught in the transition.
To me, the Allen-Rogers sequence is the best. It's actually a rather scathing look at entertainment make-believe and the relentless assault of commercial advertising. In private life the two are barely speaking, while on radio they play a pair of happy marrieds who trade comic barbs in between pushing the sponsors' goofy products. It's rather deftly and bitingly done, even though the 57-year old Allen looks like he's been on a two-week bender. In passingnote that even though we see a number of living rooms, no TV's are in sight, only radios! This was Hollywood in its final stage of denial.
The other vignettes are mildly entertaining, with a look at a number of performers on the way up the ladder-- Monroe, Marvin, Wayne, Gaynor. Especially satisfying is the delicious opportunity the letter provides Calhern to turn the tables on the gold-digging Gabor and her grasping attorney. At least the screenplay had the good sense not to reconcile these two at the end. But notice how the script insists the others be reconciled in typical 50's happy ending style. This certainly rings hollow in the case of the feuding Allen-Rogers. Given a second chance, it's hard to see how they could possibly stay together. In the case of Douglas-Arden, the most incisive of the vignettes, they may be totally bored with one another (check the dinner scene), but are too complaisant to actually change. That strikes me as maybe not the funniest, but at least as the most realistic of the episodes.
Anyway, whatever the comedy lacks in sparkle, it is revealing of its timeradio, beauty pageants, war in Korea (implied in Bracken's troop ship). But I'm afraid that the clever premise plays better than the mild results.
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