10 February 2008 | blanche-2
Colman, Grant and Arthur - how can it miss? It doesn't.
Cary Grant is Leopold Dilg, "The Talk of the Town," in this 1942 film also starring Ronald Colman and Jean Arthur. The outspoken Digl is framed for arson and murder and escapes from prison. He ends up in the home of a schoolteacher he's known since childhood, Nora Shelley. She's preparing her home to be rented the next day - except the renter, an attorney named Professor Lightcap (Colman) shows up right then. Since Leopold has a bad ankle, Nora lets him hide in the attic. Though Lightcap wants peace and quiet to write a book, things don't quite happen that way. Nora insists on being his secretary/cook - because she has to take care of Leopold - and every time Lightcap turns around, there's Nora's mother, the police looking for Dilg, furniture deliveries and a delivery of all of Nora's clothing - before he agrees to hire her.
Nora and Dilg's attorney Yates (Edgar Buchanan) attempt to drag the brilliant ivory tower attorney into the unfair assumption of guilt of Dilg, but Lightcap refuses. His type of justice, it seems, is all on paper. He doesn't want to get involved with any real people. Leopold, posing as the family gardener, gets into some heated discussions with him, and at Leopold's urging, Nora gives Lightcap special attention. But is any of it enough to make him cave and help Digl?
This is a grand comedy with very serious undertones. Who would ever expect two of the most elegant men in film history, Grant and Colman, to be facing off in a comedy, no less, where one of them is very definitely NOT elegant. Grant is terrific, a truly great actor who rarely let his audience see anything but the famous "Cary Grant" persona. Here, he's a man of the people with a clumsy walk and casual clothes. His pantomime to Nora through his attic window of wanting something to eat is hilarious. The bearded Colman plays the role of a stuffy professor very straight. Lightcap is barely able to stand the chicanery of Nora's household at first, as he has a strict routine. Fast forward and he's flirting and dancing with a smart-mouthed beautician (Glenda Farrell) in order to pump her for information about her boyfriend. His acting, particularly his courtroom speech toward the end of the film, is magnificent. Arthur plays Nora as a dizzy, confused and nervous woman, completely thrown as a landlord, a friend and a woman by the appearance of Leopold and the brilliance of Lightcap, as well as his admiration of her. She's torn between the two of them - and keeps the audience wondering.
Really a must-see for the lesson that true justice must be not read, not preached, but lived and for the wonderful characterizations and direction by Stevens.