Erie Canal, N.Y., 1850: Molly Larkins, cook on Jotham Klore's canal boat, has a love-hate relationship with her boss. She hires handsome new haul-horse driver Dan Harrow and the inevitable triangle develops (complicated by Dan's desire to farm and Molly's to boat) against a background of the canalmen's fight against the encroaching railroad. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Don't forget, I'm a five time widow, and when they died they all left me everything they owned. Rest their souls.
What do you want with me? I'm broke.
Well, I figure after five rich husbands, the next one would be on the house.
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It's sad that The Farmer Takes A Wife was owned by 20th Century Fox instead of Warner Brothers. Had Jack Warner been in charge he had the right person for the female lead in Doris Day. As it is this musical adaption of the Frank Elsner-Marc Connelly play has a most miscast Betty Grable doing a part that had Doris stamped all over it. When Betty says 'Uticky' it doesn't quite come out right.
The original play ran for 104 performances in the 1934-35 season and was the vehicle that made Henry Fonda a star. In fact producer Walter Wanger took the highly unusual step in bringing Fonda to Hollywood to star in the role that made him. Playing the parts that Betty Grable and John Carroll have in this version are Janet Gaynor and Charles Bickford.
Of course with this being changed to a musical and the billing reflecting it, the emphasis was changed from the male to the female lead. Seeing Dale Robertson as Dan Harrow though, he makes an admirable substitute for Fonda.
Too bad that Harold Arlen and Dorothy Fields didn't write anything memorable in the score. And for the life of me I can't figure why John Carroll who does sing well, wasn't given more to do musically.
The story is an old fashioned rustic one set during the final days of the Erie Canal. Everyone but Betty seems to realize the railroad will eventually put the canal out of business as the major venue of transportation. Still she and soft spoken farmer Robertson do eventually come together as Robertson wins her over Carroll who is a real lout in this film. I can readily see Charles Bickford in that part in the first film version.
At the same time Betty was doing this, Doris Day was doing Calamity Jane over at Warner Brothers in a similar role with much better songs. Maybe with a better score, The Farmer Takes A Wife would have been more memorable.
Still I think it would have needed Doris Day.
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