Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mill Creek comedy classics #68: "My Love For Yours" (1939)

Honeymoon in Bali was retitled and regurgitated as My Love for Yours.

The flick: My Love for Yours (originally released as Honeymoon in Bali, Paramount, 1939) [buy the set]

Current IMDb rating: 6.4

Director: Edward H. Griffith (The Animal Kingdom)

Sidekick Helen Broderick
Actors of note:
  • Fred MacMurray (Billy Wilder's The Apartment and Double Indemnity; several live-action Disney comedies, including The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, and The Shaggy Dog; TV's My Three Sons)
  • Madeleine Carroll (one of Hitchock's icy blondes; appeared in his films The 39 Steps and Secret Agent)
  • Allan Jones (more known as a singer than an actor; appeared in the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races as well as Show Boat, Rose Marie, and other musicals)
  • Akim Tamiroff (Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, The Trial, and the never-completed Don Quixote [he was Sancho Panza]; Godard's Alphaville; much more)
  • Helen Broderick (Top Hat, Swing Time)
  • Osa Massen (MST3K favorite Rocketship X-M; lots of TV work in the '50s)
  • Astrid Allwyn (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  • Carolyn Lee (Birth of the Blues)
  • Benny Bartlett (played "Butch" in a lot of Bowery Boys movies from 1948-1955; also appeared in Hitchcock's Rear Window and Capra's Meet John Doe)

The gist of it: Gail Allen (Carroll) is a successful career woman who runs a large NYC department store called Morrissey's and is fiercely proud of her independent lifestyle. But one day, while having lunch with her friend, romance-writing old maid Lorna "Smitty" Smith (Broderick), Gail receives some remarkably specific predictions from a fortune teller (Allwyn), who says that Gail will be married and have a child.

Very soon after that, Gail runs into Bill "Willie" Burnett (MacMurray), a cocky businessman who makes his home in Bali and who closely matches the description of the husband the fortune teller described. As it happens, Willie is taking care of little Rosie (Lee), the young daughter of his dying friend. It's kismet! Gail claims she doesn't want to be tied down with a husband and small child, even though Willie knows that's exactly what she needs. And there are romantic rivals on both sides to complicate matters: Gail's semi-romantically involved with opera singer Eric Sinclair (Jones) and Willie's being aggressively pursued by filthy rich, empty-headed Noel Van Ness (Massen).

Gail flees to Nassau, taking Rosie with her, but Eric follows, and they have a romantic vacation together... until Gail resists Willie's advances. Willie returns to Bali and agrees to marry Noel, while Gail stays in New York and agrees to marry Eric. Will they dump their respective partners and end up together? I think you can probably guess that one.

MacMurray and Carroll: A match made in romcom hell.
My take: Folks, I won't mince words. I detested this movie and spent the last 20 minutes of it with the middle fingers on both hands extended in disapproval at the screen, as if the actors could possibly see me. My Love For Yours starts out kind of cute, I guess, but it becomes absolutely torturous by the end. It's relatively well made, and the cast is more than decent, with the exception of hopeless child actress Carolyn Lee, who barks all her lines as if she were a well-trained circus seal.

But the plot of this film is insultingly stupid and contrived; the script is thoroughly, needlessly misogynistic and casually racist to boot in its patronizing depiction of Bali and its people; and the characters behave like intolerable jackasses.

It seems like Fred MacMurray either plays bland nice guys (My Three Sons) or smarmy jerks (The Apartment). He's good at both, and he gives a not-at-all-bad performance here. The trouble is that his character, Willie Burnett, is a terrible human being -- pushy, smug, overconfident, slimy, creepy, and aggressively sexist -- and the movie mistakenly treats him like a hero.

Madeleine Carroll's character, Gail Allen, starts out as an intelligent, reasonable, capable woman, and the movie treats her like she has leprosy until she yields to the extremely dubious "charms" of Willie Burnett. Granted, dullard Eric Sinclair is not much of a catch either (his arias do tend to drag on), but who says she has to marry either of these chumps? Every character in the movie insists that Gail needs a husband and child to be complete. What I think she needs is the opportunity to sock Willie Burnett right in the jaw. Maybe then he'd stop smirking for five seconds.

Benny Bartlett
Is it funny: That's the darnedest thing. As deeply irritating as this movie was, there were several funny moments scattered throughout its running time. I liked Akim Tamaroff's character, for instance, a window washer at Morrissey's who observes all the goings on at the store and is not shy about giving his opinion of what others should do. Too bad the movie uses him to help brainwash Gail into throwing herself at Willie Burnett.

Fred MacMurray and Charles Lane have a nice little scene together in which they discuss the accuracy of a Balinese-themed window display at the department store, and Benny Bartlett gives the film a shot in the arm as a singing telegram boy who's none too thrilled about working on a rainy night. Naturally, Fred MacMurray and Madeleine Carroll exchange lots of fast-paced 1930s movie banter, too, and I think a few of their zingers might have gotten through to me.

In fact, if it hadn't been for this movie's horrendous treatment of women and embarrassing depiction of non-white characters, My Love For Yours would be a decent watch. As it is, however, it's poisonous. I nearly didn't make it through this one.

My grade: D

P.S. - There is a great deal of discussion in this film about Balinese women and their relationship to white men. It is generally agreed upon that white men can hire Balinese women as maids or use them strictly for sex, but it's improper to actually marry them. I'm pretty sure Gail refers to the people of Bali as "heathens" at one point, too. And in the "Nassau" section of the film, little Rosie sees some dark-skinned men and makes a crack about what awful sunburns they must have. So, yeah, this movie may have some racial issues.