This is a weird movie. Actually, *any* movie about cross-dressing is automatically weird, but this movie is weird even by cross-dressing standards. The hero's name -- at least when he's wearing trousers -- is Dick Browning, which prompted me to think of several cheeky puns while I was watching his antics in skirts.
Young Dick Browning's parents are wealthy, but -- after Dick's father suddenly dies -- Dick learns that three crooked stockbrokers have swindled him out of the family fortune. (A stockbroker would actually be crooked? Gasp!) Dick manages to scrape up enough dosh to support his destitute elderly mother. When she dies, Dick naturally takes the most obvious course open to him: he dresses up as a woman and cries himself Mary Brown.
As 'Mary', Dick uses his feminine wiles to rob two of the three stockbrokers. Meanwhile, he meets the fair Betty, niece of the third crook. Dick falls in love with Betty, who doesn't seem to wonder why 'Mary' is so attentive.
SPOILERS COMING. This movie manages to have it both ways. On some level, we sympathise with Dick's criminal campaign (since he's only robbing *other* crooks), but we also want him to be honest. Conveniently -- after Dick plans the robbery of Betty's uncle, but before he can do the deed -- a crook named Weasel gets a jump on him by breaking into the uncle's house himself, then killing the uncle when he's discovered. So it's Weasel who gets led away in handcuffs. (I was hoping Dick would get nicked while disguised as Mary: he would have been taken to the women's prison, where the matron would have had a surprise.) Even more conveniently, Betty then inherits her dead uncle's wealth and marries Dick, apparently because he and she are the same dress size.
During this dull drag turn, my mind had plenty of time to mull irrelevant questions. For instance: since Dick Browning doesn't want the crooks to rumble his disguise, why does he name his female identity Mary *Brown*, a surname that will remind his prey of their previous victim? I was thinking about this sort of thing because the movie itself was so uninteresting.
In the lead role as Dick Browning, Casson Ferguson overacts shamelessly. Matters get worse when he disguises himself as Mary: Ferguson is only slightly passable as a woman, and his histrionics bring his female characterisation dangerously close to burlesque. Whenever a male actor wears female disguise, the audience's first impulse is to laugh. When the man isn't a very good actor to begin with -- as is the case here -- a dramatic portrayal becomes dangerously bathetic. 'Alias Mary Brown' is meant to be a drama, not a comedy, but I laughed several times during this drag act.
If you're looking for a plausible drama, keep moving. And if you're aroused by movies involving transvestism, be advised that there's nothing especially appealing about Casson Ferguson's female antics here. This isn't so much 'Some Like It Hot' as 'Some Like It Lukewarm'. I'll rate 'Alias Mary Brown' just 3 points out of 10.
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