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  • Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor did two films together during their tenure at MGM and The Big Hangover is the first of them. He's a young law school graduate, top of his particular class, who is applying for an opening in a very prestigious white shoe law firm. She's the daughter of the firm's senior partner Percy Waram and she's crushing out big time on Van.

    Van's got one unusual case of shell shock during the war. Two things happened to him, he had a close friend die in his arms in a plane being shot at with anti-aircraft guns and he nearly drowned in a cellar of a monastery that was being used as a hospital. The monks in the place made wine and after spending a good deal of time up to his neck in the stuff, the slightest taste or smell of liquor gets him cockeyed drunk.

    It's an amusing bit for parties, but not at all social or business occasions. Liz turns amateur psychologist to discover what's ailing Van.

    The Big Hangover is an amusing comedy from MGM, not hardly in the top ten of films for either of its leads. It does have an interesting subplot involving discrimination and the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws that were being passed by a lot of states at this time, New York among them where the story takes place. A Chinese doctor, Philip Ahn, is being thrown out of an apartment the owner is represented by Percy Waram's firm.

    Which leads to the highlight of the film and the best performance in the film by Leon Ames who plays the city attorney who is charged with enforcement of the non-discrimination statute. After Johnson chastises him, Ames gives an eloquent statement about how money and success are the gods we cherish.

    The Big Hangover is amusing in spots, is serious in spots, has a bit of trouble making its mind up whether it's a comedy or a drama of social significance. Still it is entertaining and fans of the two stars should like it.
  • dougdoepke15 October 2016
    Plot--A top-notch law student is courted by a powerful legal firm. Trouble is the budding legal eagle gets silly drunk on just a taste of alcohol. Of course, that creates problems in the boozy world of formal dinners. And, oh yes, something about a Chinese man losing his apartment because of discrimination gets dropped in.

    I was curious. The production has two of MGM's brightest young stars, Taylor and Johnson, yet I'd never heard of the movie. Now I know why. It can't make up its mind what it is— comedy, social conscience, drama. Okay, some movies manage to combine the three into a luminous package, like The Apartment (1960). But that film benefited from the versatile Jack Lemmon in the lead. Now Van Johnson could do light comedy, especially with engaging dialog. And that's the trouble here. In a difficult role that calls for traversing from bibulous one-liners to sober righteousness he looks dour throughout, turning many of his sudden inebriated moments from humor to confusion. I'm not sure what the cause was, but the results look like miscasting. Trouble is that his is the central role, and thusly the movie as a whole is compromised.

    Not that the script is any help, especially the fancy dinner scene that's almost painful in its misplaced humor. Then too, the pregnant premise—getting drunk on a mere whiff of alcohol —is a tricky one that might work in a different context, but not here. Anyway, Taylor's gorgeous, while about every middle-aged actor in Hollywood picks up a payday. But whatever impresario Krasna was reaching for just doesn't come off. Good thing both stars went on to bigger and better things.
  • Van Johnson portrays a young World War II veteran who, upon joining a prominent law firm, attempts to avoid scandal stemming from his allergy to alcohol. He forms an alliance with the daughter of the firm's leader, played by Elizabeth Taylor, and their romance is light hearted and moderated with realism. Ensemble playing from the talented cast is top-drawer throughout, with excellent timing ever in evidence. A shadowy sub-plot dealing with racial prejudice (victims: Chinese) is not overdone and is necessary for developing the film's principal theme: the inherent value of performing public service. Playwright Norman Krasna, who wrote, produced and directed this understated comedic drama, keeps matters moving briskly, while allowing scenes to develop properly by emphasizing the sharp dialogue, some of which is startling with its insight. There is good acting aplenty, by the mentioned leads as well as by Leon Ames and Edgar Buchanan; but the honors must go to the veteran English stage performer, Percy Waram, whose delivery is perfection.
  • This 1950 film was a sleeper at the time and is now considered a classic. Starring Van Johnson [at his peak] and Elizabeth Taylor [at her early MGM grown up best] it tells the tale of a young man with allergies to alcohol and the boss's daughter who crusades to help him overcome his problems. The supporting cast is one of the finest MGM group of veterans ever presented in one film along with a talking shaggy dog [at least Van can hear him].

    Percy Warham [notable English actor] and Fay Holden [Judges Hardy's wife] play the parents of Miss Taylor. Edgar Buchanan [that gravel voiced actor from PETTICOAT JUNCTION] outstanding in his role, and Selena Royale play aunt and uncle to Van. Leon Ames [of MEET ME IN ST LOUIS] and Rosemary DeCamp [from TV's LOVE THAT BOB] play a couple struggling to survive in the field of law [she's his wife] with Philip Ahn as a victim of racial malpractice and trick legal maneuverings.

    Miss Taylor never looked lovelier in her Edith Head gowns and Van is just plain charming. They both underplay their roles and give very believable performances. Directed and written by Norman Krasna [playwright of KIND LADY, DEAR RUTH, SUNDAY IN NEW YORK] this is well written and directed.

    I had the privilege of working with Mr. Buchanan years ago at the Pasadena Playhouse in SEND ME NO FLOWERS. He was wonderful to work with and to know. Having started out as a dentist then turned actor, he had such wonderful funny stories to tell us all.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What the title suggests is far from what the film truly is all about. The title suggests either another "Lost Weekend" or a comedy about a man making a fool out of himself humorously while intoxicated. What it really turns out to be is a well-intended comedy/drama about a man suffering from memories of the war (his best friend died in his arms while overseas) and dealing with the assumption that because he gets intoxicated just by smelling liquor (having almost drowned when trapped in a monastery up to his neck in six feet of booze when the vats broke in a room he was recuperating in) and some foolish pranks played on him by an idiot executive (Gene Reynolds).

    Having graduated as an attorney the first in his law school class, he is offered a position at a prestigious firm, and discovers that not all successful people are big people, and not all the truly meaningful jobs are those that offer high salaries. He finds that his firm has many ruthless cases, one of which is the attempt to keep a Japanese man from moving into the apartment he has leased for six months. A public servant (Leon Ames) comes along and sensing his ideals, reveals the truth to him about the people he works with. Elizabeth Taylor is the daughter of one of the partners who takes an interest in Johnson's drunken predicament and sets out to help him.

    At first, this film is a bit aggravating because this is a one-note joke that just goes too far, especially when the other partner (Reynolds) goes out of his way to humiliate the idealistic Johnson. Reynolds, we learn, is the jovial sort who puts on ladies' hats at parties just to get attention, and is truly mean-spirited behind his light-hearted demeanor. But when the film's message comes out, you begin to see that Johnson is meant to do something more than become a ruthless attorney, make a high salary, and set out to bring down the little people. Taylor must discover that his high integrity is the desirable choice for a husband even though it is obvious that she has learned from her father that if one wants to be successful in business and live in the creme-de-la-creme of society, one must be ruthless in order to get it and keep it.

    Reminding me of Gary Cooper's Mr. Deeds, Johnson's veteran is the model of the idealistic man who has two roads to choose from with his success both in the military and in college. Like Mr. Deeds, when he is discovered to be honest, he is humiliated because he is trying to integrate integrity into a ruthless sector. This is where the film succeeds, not with its one-joke sitcom like situation that has Johnson having drunken conversations with his dog. That results in a mixed bag, although the pay-off for Reynolds' obnoxious character is perfect for the epitome of the saying, "There's No Fool Like an Old Fool". So much for old fools wearing ladies' hats.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A mostly unknown and peculiar film, The Big Hangover comes across as an uneven mix of silly comedy and serious social commentary.

    David Muldon is the central figure, a soon to be law graduate who due to an incident in which he was nearly head deep in Brandy resulted in David instantly becoming drunk at a mere sip of alcohol. This very daft premise results in a number of drunken inspired comic moments for David including interactions with his pet dog and singing out loud to the amusement of those around him. The comedic partner to this foolish fiasco is Mary; Daughter of David's soon to be employer who enlist her help in an attempt to cure David of his bizarre problem and in archetypical fashion becomes his love interest.

    The premise is well established by the time a more serious element in form of a subplot begins to develop regarding Dr Lee, a Chinese doctor who along with his Wife are forced out of their home due to overwhelming racism on part of the owners of the property and certain Lawyers who are involved, including those of the establishment in which David hopes to join. Although there is nothing wrong with this subplot as it takes a honest look at racism during this period, it does not fit into The Big Hangover's primary status as a zany comedy. It is impossible to go from a scene in which the antagonistic Lawyer spikes David's food to make him look ridiculous for laughs right to David confronting the people involved regarding their morality to the Dr Lee situation without, as a viewer, noticing the irregularity of the narrative's direction.

    Due to all the patchiness in tone The Big Hangover contains, by the time the narrative concludes there is no real resolve to the main premise or the subplot. From an audience perspective it concludes on a unsatisfactory note.
  • "The Big Hangover" is a rather unpleasant film that seen today doesn't play well. Acting-wise, the cast is very attractive: a gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor, then 18 years old, Van Johnson, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Percy Waram, and Edgar Buchanan. Johnson plays a law student on the GI bill who's about to graduate. He has an embarrassing problem with alcohol: one taste and he's plastered. He talks to lamps; he thinks his dog is talking to him; he sings loudly at a formal alumni dinner. His boss' daughter, Taylor, who once worked for a psychiatrist, wants to cure him.

    All of this has the makings of a comedy, except the film takes a turn with the introduction of a subplot where a Chinese man and his wife are denied an apartment. Johnson believes the matter to be resolved in the man's favor, and then learns that the law firm he works with has lied to him. This has the makings of a good drama, with Johnson having to face some cold facts of life and decide what he wants to stand for in his career.

    But as neither comedy nor drama, the film ends up as not much. There's an aggravating scene where one of the good old boy attorneys spikes Johnson's food at the alumni dinner to watch him get plotzed. It's mean-spirited, and it makes you wonder why the other people at the table are laughing.

    Despite its excellent cast and good performances, The Big Hangover is more of The Big Waste.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I didn't much like this movie for the first ten or fifteen minutes: it seemed to be heading in a silly direction and a couple times I almost turned it off. But something kept me watching: maybe the unusual style in Percy Waram's delivery, maybe the unusual role Edgar Buchanan plays, maybe the unusually understated humor of the dialogue, and the way Taylor and Johnson underplay it. (Maybe I just liked all the great shots of a lovable mutt named Mike.) Anyway, I stayed with it and it pays off. The story has a way of setting up ludicrous scenes and then hitting you in the gut emotionally. This first happens in the Belney study with a bottle of scotch on Sunday morning, and starting here the whole film worked for me, culminating in the banquet scene which is written and timed and played perfectly for its purposes.

    THE BIG HANGOVER is ultimately a coming-home-from-the-war story and gives us in later times a subversively comic insight into the heart of an era where buried grief was both shadow and spark, and where society's acknowledgment of its own racism was only just beginning to gather witness from the idealistic young. Van Johnson makes us care about David (and what David cares about!). The entire cast is very well managed by the writer-director Norman Krasna. Near the end Leon Ames has one of his best moments on film.
  • This movie is based on a very contrived plot device. Van Johnson plays a man who has a peculiar sort of reaction to alcohol--the type you'll only see in movies and I doubt if anyone on this planet does what his character did. While the IMDb summary says he passes out when he drinks, this is NOT the case. Instead, even the smallest taste of alcohol sends him into a fit where he behaves roaring drunk for several minutes--afterwords, he has no clear recollection of his behaviors. As I said, it's contrived--but also odd because the film really isn't exactly a comedy--in fact, much of it is VERY serious. In fact, with a subplot involving racism, the mix is uncomfortable and bizarre to say the least.

    On the plus side, the film has very good acting. Van Johnson, despite the material, is excellent and he's given tons of support from the likes of Liz Taylor (who is at her radiant best), Leon Ames (whose speech at the end is terrific), Gene Lockhart (June's father) and Edgar Buchanan--among others. It is clearly filled with quality actors. It's just too bad that the script itself isn't high quality. In fact, it could clearly have used a re-write. It's a B-movie script with A-list actors and production values. Not a bad film but not at all a good one either.
  • It's hard to believe that just 4 years after this ridiculous film, Johnson and Taylor costarred in the memorable "The Last Time I Saw Paris." That was a picture.

    The problem with this film is that the sub-plot would have made the ideal plot. A Chinese doctor is refused admission into his apartment due to racism and bigotry. This would have made for a fascinating problem especially in an era when the movies was searching for relevant social problems of the period.

    Instead, we are given an inane film where every time Johnson even sips a drink, he goes absolutely bonkers. Come to think of it, this is insulting to people who have drinking problems.

    Taylor talks in a voice that was appropriate for "National Velvet" but certainly not 6 years later when she was older.

    Any decent acting here is done by veteran pro Leon Ames, as a city official. His one scene stealer towards the end is memorable.
  • Nineteen-fifty can't have been an accommodating year for a drama with a `progressive' axe to grind, so writer/director Norman Krasna opted for stealth: He wrapped it in a simple-minded screwball plot. Alas, the comedy takes an offensive, loutish turn while the social commentary ends up trivialized, an afterthought.

    Van Johnson, valedictorian of his law school class, interns at a white-shoe firm but hides an awkward secret. In France during the war, a bombing raid on a monastery almost caused him to drown in Napoleon brandy. Ever since, he has zero tolerance for booze, in a way that's different (but not entirely so) from abnormal drinkers who sometimes refer to their `allergy' to alcohol; even a whiff sets him off into sustaining conversations with floor lamps and sheep dogs, like another inebriate of that year, Elwood P. Dowd. But pains are taken to stress that he's not `an alcoholic.' Luckily Elizabeth Taylor, daughter of the firm's head, rescues him from embarrassment and sets out to `cure' him.

    In the Scotch-and-martini days of post-war drinking, maybe audiences swallowed the fallacy that Johnson's aversion to spirits was a crippling obstacle to his happiness and success; at one juncture he even laments, `Why couldn't I just have been shot in the war?' (The unthinkable is never proposed – that, like millions of others, with and without problems, he simply abstain.)

    Then, about halfway through, the movie suddenly springs its `serious' theme. Johnson is lied to about an incident of anti-Asian discrimination in which his firm is involved (this seems courageous until it dawns that a Jim Crow incident could never have been used). Everything comes to a head at a self-congratulatory banquet where the partners – with the connivance of their wives – become merry old pranksters, spiking Johnson's soup in hopes that he'll discredit himself. But, Taylor at his side, Johnson surmounts his disability and blows a clarion call for truth, justice and the American way.

    Appealing performances by Johnson, Taylor, Leon Ames, Gene Lockhart and many others help the movie go down rather smoothly. But then The Big Hangover lives up to its title: afterwards, It's foolish, unpleasant and regrettable.
  • 'The Big Hangover' did intrigue me. The premise sounded very silly but it seemed oddly interesting and comedy and seriousness together has been done well on film a number of times. Love classic film too, but the biggest drawer was the cast, full of performers that are generally watchable. Elizabeth Taylor especially at her best was great.

    Not much to add to what has been said very well by the other commentators, but 'The Big Hangover' took its potentially silly premise and executes it in an even sillier and at times utterly bizarre fashion. It is not a terrible film and has merits, but it mostly left me cold despite on paper liking and admiring what it was trying to do and say. It just didn't come together and came over as strange and not in a particularly good way.

    Its best asset is the cast. Van Johnson excels in a difficult role, the subdued quality to his acting fitting the character well, while Taylor charms and looks lovely in one of her earliest adult character roles, exuding a good deal of warmth. All the supporting cast fare well, but the standout performance came from Leon Ames, who is amusing and sincere with the highlight moment of the film.

    Visually it looks good, shot with a lot of effort and care. The music fits nicely and is pleasant enough in its own right. There are some amusing moments, thanks to some expert comic timing from the cast, and also moments of charm. Ames' speech at the end strikes a chord and is very memorable, by far the highlight of the writing.

    However, 'The Big Hangover' didn't for me come together as a mix of comedy and seriousness and both on their own are patchy in how they come across. The comedy has too many moments where it is far too silly and contrived and the seriousness veers on too preachy. The low point was the dinner party scene, as a scene it was misplaced and the humour was distasteful. The racism subplot was well intended but suffered from having the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The direction is hardly inept but somewhat uninspired and with not much distinction.

    From a story perspective, any worries of it being silly does come true sadly and in a way that's very contrived and try too hard. It's also rather disjointed in trying to balance the comedy and seriousness and having too many instances of the shifts in tone being too abrupt and jarring, creating the bizarreness factor and the sense that the film wasn't completely sure what it wanted to be. The script could have done with more sharpness and focus and while the film is not dull as such there is not an awful lot that engages properly, there are moments but one wants a film consistent all the way through.

    Overall, well cast and has some good moments but a very odd film. 5/10 Bethany Cox
  • Warning: Spoilers
    An M-G-M picture. Copyright 13 March 1950 (in notice: 1949) by Loew's Inc. U.S. release: 26 May 1950. U.K. release 4 September 1950. New York opening at the Capitol: 25 May 1950. Australian release: 7 July 1950. 7,390 feet. 82 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: As a result of a wartime accident (he nearly drowned in brandy stored in the wine cellar of a monastery), young lawyer David Maldon (Van Johnson) is allergic to alcohol. The merest whiff makes him intoxicated. Mary Belney (Elizabeth Taylor), his boss's daughter, helps him to conquer his odd problem and sees him overcome some career problems brought on by his lofty idealism.

    NOTES: Anna Q. Nilsson can be glimpsed, seated between Pierre Watkin and Gene Lockhart in the nightclub sequence.

    COMMENT: A comedy of manners with wit and occasional slapstick sugar-coating a trenchant attack on legal ethics. The characters are completely believable with Van Johnson and Leon Ames giving fine, sensitive performances and engaging character studies by Percy Waram and Gene Lockhart.

    The supporting cast is also top-notch and production values are first-class. Krasna's direction is unobtrusive and concentrates attention on his script - a method that can be commended when the script is as interesting and diverting as this one.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I only saw this one because I always watch anything with Elizabeth Taylor, and she never disappoints. It's an odd little movie with a typical screwball comedy gimmick that also veers in and out of social commentary. The gimmick is that Van Johnson was a WWII Army Air Corps pilot who got wounded and had to recuperate in an Alpine monastery basement that was filled with barrels of brandy. The Luftwaffe bombed the monastery and Johnson spent 14 hours being literally up to his nose in brandy. The experience gave him psychological issues with alcohol. If he drinks even the tiniest amount he instantly gets falling-down, hallucinating, blind drunk; but in a comical way. After the war, he becomes valedictorian at his law school and gets hired by an upper-crust law firm owned by Elizabeth Taylor's father. Liz is an eye-popping 18-years-old at this point, and she plays yet another headstrong daughter of a rich guy. It's a role she could play in her sleep, but Liz was the consummate professional and she always gave great value, no matter what the part. Here she's a hawk-eyed meddler who immediately appraises Johnson as possible husband material, but first she has to fix his alcohol problem. She used to work for one of New York's top psychiatrists, so she takes it upon herself to provide Johnson's therapy.

    Meanwhile, the social commentary comes in when the law firm is retained by a big-time real estate company to prevent a Chinese doctor from moving into one of their apartments. Johnson gets accidentally entangled in this situation and he feels very strongly about helping the doctor out. There's some drunken slapstick throughout the film, and it alternates jarringly with the racial injustice aspects.

    At any rate, Liz comes through with another radiant performance, same as always. Also, she wears another top-shelf wardrobe, again same as always. She even does some reaction shots where she arches her eyebrows and makes her entire hairline move up and down. I never noticed her do that before.

    Anyway, if you're a Liz fan, you'll appreciate this flick. It's only 82 minutes long and it zips right along. A top-notch cast gets a lot of crisp dialogue which they all deliver with admirable aplomb. All that, plus an 18-yr-old Elizabeth Taylor. It can't get any better.
  • gkeith_113 October 2016
    Warning: Spoilers
    Van is a WW II veteran who gets law school paid by the government after he is discharged. He becomes the valedictorian of his graduating class. He feels guilty because his war buddy didn't make it and was a casualty.

    Van had an m.o. of being literally almost drowned in booze during his war years, so later on in civilian life he cannot drink any alcohol at all without getting intoxicated.

    He gets hired before graduation by a prestigious law firm, some of whose members are somewhat crooked as well as racist. An Asian-American physician gets barred from housing for which he signed a lease, and Van tries to intervene in idealistic defense. Postwar America was still racist, so the old coots in the law firm want to make sure whites-only still reigns supreme.

    A well-meaning city attorney says that the physician has rights just like anyone else.

    Elizabeth Taylor is the daughter of the chief attorney of the law firm. She tries to psychoanalyze Van because of his unusual reactions to anything alcoholic.

    Van gets tipsy and even hears the dog talking. This may be an early Mr. Ed.

    Another old coot lawyer even puts booze in Van's food, to humiliate Van, and to make up for Van's trying to get the Asian physician to move into the apartment anyway. Van sees that he himself is trying to be made a fool of.

    Van tells off all the lawyers at the banquet, because they are so dishonest. He is very ticked off because of the way they treated the physician incident. He doesn't want to work for them anymore.

    Elizabeth is very lovely here. Her hair is perfect, and her clothes and shoes are just divine.

    She and Van are apparently falling in love.

    Good to see Leon Ames and Rosemary De Camp.

    The doggy was just darling.

    Ten out of ten.