I've always maintained that the difference between a merely good romantic comedy and a great one is that the latter needs to have a strong supporting cast and has to be funny enough to stand on its own if one excised the "romance" from the film. Preston Sturges and William Wyler in their adaptation ofthe stage play "The Good Fairy" put this theory to the extreme test. The male romantic lead, Herbert Marshall, doesn't appear until 45 minutes into the film and he doesn't meet up with the heroine, Margaret Sullavan, until the movie is more than half over.
Sullavan and Marshall really have very few scenes together but boy do they make them count. The turn the quirkiest dialog, mostly in praise of pencil sharpeners and fake fur, into something like the boiled down essence of romance, sex and longing. Marshall and Sullavan are howlingly funny in these vignettes because they are so utterly sincere. Take Cary Grant's devotion to his intercostal clavicle in Bringing Up Baby, multiply it by ten and you'll begin to understand what I'm talking about.
The contrast between sincerity and phoniness, between niavete and cynicism is a perpetual theme of Sturges' films and Margaret Sullavan is the perfect actress to express this contrast. Her Luisa Ginklebusher is an unholy combination of innoncence and sensuality that breezes into the film and completely takes over. It's no wonder that Frank Morgan's wolfish millionaire is entirely smitten and is reduced to repeating "oh you're WONDerful" in that characteristically sing-songy Frank Morgan way.
The supporting cast is not just strong, they are Olympic weighlifter strength. Beulah Bondi and Alan Hale have tiny but memorable parts and even a throwaway steroetypical wolf character is played by a willy Ceasar Romero. Frank Morgan is great and while I've found him occasionally one-note in movies before this, he actually brings a complete, complex character to life here. Eric Blore has a stand-out turn as the drunken Dr. Metz and Reginald Owen makes the movie for me as Getloff, the waiter turned impromptu gaurdian. I've seen some films where Owen has small parts before and frankly I'd never really noticed him. He's a very able comic actor and he Sullavan have great timing together. There is something so charming about a cockney waiter with airs and a good girl with ideas that their scenes could almost be a movie on its own. If I wasn't so bananas for Herbie I wouldn't have cared if they would have just let him wind up with the girl at the end.
Bridget Jones's Dairy (2001)
7 years ago