Monday, 20 September 2010

The More the Merrier

I'm back, and eager to get back in the film blogging game. I'll start of easy though.

One of the best love scenes I know, and one that is surprisingly erotic, is to be found in The More the Merrier (1943). It's between Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea, two of my favourite actors from the 1930s and 1940s, and they play room-mates who are drawn to each other, but she's engaged to another man. The film is rather brilliant, and besides being a romantic comedy, it has unusual depth, for one thing it's about life in war-time. The reason they're living together is because of the lack of accommodation, despite the fact that most men are away, being killed at the front. With all the men away, McCrea's character gets a fair amount of attention from the women. In fact, some scenes are remarkable example of the "female gaze". In this particular scene, notice the way McCrea puts on and takes of her jacket, and the sprinkling of lovers along the street the walk on. It's very stagey, almost like a tableau from a musical.

The film was written by Robert Russell and Frank Ross, who hasn't written much else. In fact, Frank Ross's involvement might be due to the fact that he was married to Jean Arthur. But Garson Kanin is listed as uncredited writer, and that might have something to do with the quality of it.

The cinematographer is Ted Tetzlaff, who photographed a lot of suave comedies in the 30s, but perhaps made his best work on Notorious (1946). That was his last film as a cinematographer, he became a director after that, specialising in film noir and crime dramas.

And the director is George Stevens, and although I never was a fan of his, I've always admired his shooting style, which is invariably complex and unorthodox. Long takes, elaborate compositions with a lot of blocking, and plenty of dissolves are among his trademarks. In this scene there are no dissolves, but the rest is there. And it's absolutely amazing, in short, this is Stevens's best film, and one of the best American films of the 40s. It should also be said that the great Charles Coburn is in it, although not in this scene.

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