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Mark Christopher is a 35-year old, award-winning comedy scriptwriter who is struggling to be taken seriously as a drama writer. On Christmas Eve, two police officers bring 17-year old Susan (picked up for vagrancy and brawling) to Mark's apartment. If she spends a few days with him, Mark could use Susan as inspiration to write a script about juvenile-delinquents and Susan could avoid spending Christmas behind bars. Written by
This is the kind of odd thing that RKO would put together on its downhill slide in the 50's that sometimes would work and sometimes would not. This time it does seem to work although an ick factor seems to be hanging around just off camera that doesn't ever quite completely present itself. At least part of the enjoyment is seeing two veterans of the 30's Warner Brothers musical comedies together playing mature roles twenty years after the fact - Dick Powell as screenwriter-in-a-rut Mark Christopher and Glenda Farrell as his secretary Maude who likes to stay inebriated but is quite the philosopher and friend during her sober moments. She still has all of the bite and fun she had when she was Torchy Blaine.
The ick factor I talked about before is the marriage in name only of middle-aged Mark to 17 year old Susan Landis (Debbie Reynolds) who is left on Mark's doorstep by the police of all people, because one of the detectives thinks Susan would be good research for a serious script by Mark, and plus the detective doesn't want to put her in jail on Christmas Eve. The detective promises to return for her in two days. The marriage occurs because Susan will be booked on vagrancy without a visible means of support, so off they go to Vegas with Mark looking at this whole thing as a good deed to keep a basically good kid out of jail. However, Susan, the romantic, wants it to be something more. After the wedding Mark deposits Susan back in his Hollywood apartment while he goes off to an isolated spot - without Susan - to try and redeem the script he's been writing.
Susan and writer's block aren't Mark's only problems. He also has a rich girlfriend (Anne Francis) whom he seems to want to quit almost as much as the job at the studio he had writing fluff pieces but that paid well. It's hard to leave something behind that's comfortable and familiar for the unknown, even if it's slowly strangling you.
The funniest part of the movie is watching Susan, after she's legally married and living apart from Mark, trying to figured out how to win her man back. She tries everything from watching home movies of Mark's girlfriend and trying to imitate her moves and expressions to basting a turkey in an evening dress waiting for Mark to arrive for dinner, to memorizing how to make various mixed drinks. Then you have to wonder how much of this is love and how much of this is a teenage girl's natural curiosity about sex. Since Debbie Reynolds is just five years older than the part she's playing, she gives the role of Susan the realism of someone who is young enough to have recent memories of their teen years but is old enough to see the humor in them.
This thing works because it is the 50's, because it is Susan with all of the romantic and aggressive sexual impulses rather than Mark, and because of the excellent supporting players. The one thing that doesn't quite work here is Dick Powell as a 35 year old. He seems like he's playing a man quite a bit older and more beat down than one of 35 - Dick Powell was actually 50 at the time- and perhaps Mark is lying - to himself and to Susan - when he says that's how old he is.
This isn't a masterpiece, but it is a cute romantic comedy that works.
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