13 January 2016 | HarlowMGM
When The" Little Lady" is The Brains of The House
This somewhat black comedy is from the pen of Ben Hecht and may remind you a bit of his classic NOTHING SACRED although it's more in the tone of the Hepburn & Tracy films. Lucille Ball stars as a newlywed, newly retired from a successful career writing ad copy but now "just married" to her former co-worker Franchot Tone. Trouble is Tone was never quite the "ad man" his wife was and is hell bent to prove his worth to the company. When an eccentric scientist friend of his invents a new embalming fluid (to turn corpses into permanent glass statues!) he mentions as a side note, it can also be used for an "instant shave" on facial hair. Tone sees this use as his ticket to success and fortune and promotes it in a big time product premiere inviting dignities and the famous (including actor Larry Parks in a cameo as himself) to try the product. They all rave about it but the trouble is that it GROWS hair thicker and worse than before within 24 hours. The day after is a major fiasco for the corporation but it's Lucy to the rescue as she cleverly points out this "new" turn is perhaps an even bigger market - selling it to men bald or with thinning hair - and a new campaign starts much to her husband's irritation. (This particular plot twist the viewer can see miles away given supporting actor Edward Everett Horton is fitted with a very phony looking skull cap to play bald for the first several reels. You can see the edges lines of it on the small screen, can't imagine how obvious it was on the big screen). Determined to be back in the driver's seat, Franchot plots more behind the scene maneuvers which ends up having him on trial for the presumed murder of the professor.
The comedy is hit and miss but Lucy is always excellent and she looks a vision in some very attractive fashions. Tone is over the top at times but does well, the trouble is the brazen sexism of his character is more than a little unpleasant to latter-day viewers and likely to more than a few 1940's ones as well. There's also delicious irony with the movie's theme that Lucy is far more talented than he as "ad man" as the movie starts off with Tone twiddling with lots of unfunny shtick as he plots out his newest ad copy while that goes on for several minutes but Lucy merely raises her eyebrow in sleepy exhaustion as is far funnier showing - to no surprise of course - she's also his superior as a comic and an actor. Among the supporting cast Columbia character contractee Nana Bryant stands out as a socialite who can't help but take a discreet dip in the miracle product during it's premiere to rid herself of a touch of facial hair and lives to regret it.