19 April 2012 | Dfree52
I just caught most of MY PAL GUS on the Fox movie channel early this morning. Boasting Richard Widmark as a single parent to a preschool boy (frog sounding George Winslow) and the lovely Joanne Dru as the boy's teacher, I thought I'd give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.
Here is a portrayal of a parent who can't deal with his precocious child and seeks help with a professional. He's a successful, self made business man and getting help is something he rarely does.
We follow Dave Jennings (Widmark) through his frustrating efforts to cope with the school's (and it's administrator's, Dru's Lydia Marble) demands for active participation. Widmark is awkward, annoyed and at times funny as he struggles with his softer side. As Dru converts a "jerk into a parent" his feelings for her deepen and she eventually relents. She of course is a teacher to both son and father.
But paradise is threatened by the cold, conniving ex-wife and boy's mother Joyce (Audrey Totter). She left her family high and dry when the boy was an infant but is back looking for a payoff.
A custody battle ensues and both sides get what they want...or do they? This of course endangers all concerned...father-son and Dave-Lydia. I won't spoil the outcome but the battle is largely Dave's fault. He's not willing to settle out of court, so sure he'll win, as he has with everything. The spectre of losing his son and his love guides him in the end.
Great to watch Widmark, though still the tough guy in a different role. What I liked best is that it's not sappy or hokey. Dad doesn't have to do something to win over his child or gain the support of his woman, just be a loving man. Dru is good as Widmark's patient love. Joan Banks is Widmark's capable personal assistant Ivy, Regis Toomey his lawyer.
Nice companion to 1953's TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY (John Wayne-Donna Reed).