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...a most practical Viennese marriage proposal...
on November 25, 2012
At one point, back in the day, Hedy Lamarr was regarded as the most beautiful woman to ever grace cinema. And like all pig chauvinists I'll dismiss her supreme knack for mathematics. But, okay, did you know that, according to Richard Rhodes's book HEDY'S FOLLY: THE LIFE AND BREAKTHROUGH INVENTIONS OF HEDY LAMARR, she co-invented technology that was a precursor to Bluetooth? I don't believe she was ever hailed as a great actress, but, man alive, she's so stunning I could watch her onscreen all day, even if all she did was clip coupons. I have no doubt she'd make clipping coupons this wildly seductive act. Hedy Lamarr was showcased in a series of exotic melodramas (ALGIERS, WHITE CARGO, SAMSON AND DELILAH) in which she played the irresistible siren. Except I enjoyed her more in her lighthearted pictures.
(Here's a drinking game: take a shot each time you read the word "married" or "marriage.")
With her temporary passport expired three months ago, an Austrian refugee (Lamarr) hiding in New York is finally tracked down by a kindly Immigration Inspector and given a one week deadline to marry an American citizen or face deportation. Naturally, "Johnny Jones" (her Americanized name) can't tie the knot with the rich, middle-aged publisher with whom she'd been carrying an affair, because he's already married, never mind that it's one of those "modern marriages."
Many minutes into the film, here strolls proud but struggling writer Bill Smith (Stewart) whose prospects are so dim he reluctantly enters into a marriage of convenience with Johnny Jones. Each week Johnny visits Bill to fork over a check worth $17.80 (Bill is a prideful minimalist when it comes to things like cost of living). This arrangement allows Johnny to stay in America and to carry on her fling with that publisher. The story conflict surfaces when, months later, Bill Smith grows dissatisfied with the contract, mainly because he'd fallen in love with Johnny and so wants a real marriage.
I rate COME LIVE WITH ME an above average 3 out of 5 stars. In 1941, when this film came out, Hedy Lamarr was at the height of her physical grace. I was so distracted by her the first time I saw this a few years ago, it took me a second viewing to realize that this movie is more mildly amusing than it is a ribald, uproarious screwball comedy. I do recommend it for its two leads and also for noteworthy performances by supporting actresses Verree Teasdale and Adeline de Walt Reynolds, both of whom lend depth to a shallow plot. Teasdale plays the two-timing publisher's wistful, understanding wife. De Walt Reynolds plays Bill Smith's endearingly crusty, proverb-slinging grandmother. But, overall, the humor is low key - you'll half-smile more than you'll chortle. There's also a sense of, I dunno, lethargy that made me fidget. Also, Johnny's sudden turnaround in the third act is a bit tough to swallow, considering how smitten she was with her publisher. Are fireflies then so magical that mere mention of them would palpitate a maiden's heart? I'll try that next time I go clubbin'.