Sunday, 17 June 2012

Government Girl (1943)

According to IMDb's trivia section on this film, Olivia de Havilland, its star, hated the film. Whether this is true or not, I can't say. But I certainly wouldn't blame her. This is a poorly scripted, poorly cast, poorly directed romantic comedy. If she didn't boycott her own performance on purpose (as suggested) then this is even worst that I thought.

A bit of context here - de Havilland in the early 1940s was still under contract to Warner Bros. Her star had been rising since 1935 and "Captain Blood",  but with "Gone with the Wind" in 1939 and "Hold Back the Dawn" in 1941, both loans elsewhere, she finally got some respect from the studio. So she got better parts, for instance in "The Strawberry Blond" and the good sister in "In This Our Life". Then they loaned her to Selznick, who in turn loaned her to RKO for this tripe. It must clearly have felt as demotion/punishment and probably weighted heavily in her landmark decision to sue the studio the following year.

The film basically concerns a secretary falling in love with her boss. This has been done before many times over, and sometimes well. This is clearly not one of them - the characters are one dimensional, and there are way too many plot lines that either get nowhere or are just filling (the first act of the film is completely filling, concerning the lack of a room for de Havilland's roommate to consummate her wedding). Of course it doesn't help that the whole cast is not bothered (de Havilland), has underwritten parts (Agnes Moorehead), or is just terrible (pretty much everyone else, except Harry Davenport doing one of his wise old men which he did with his eyes closed). The leading man (Sonny Tufts) and the second banana (Jess Barker) are particularly dull. As all this suggests, the film isn't funny. (What was it with the shoes?!) It also managed to produce in me a complete indifference to the fate of all characters, despite the extremely predictability of the ending.

The only interesting points were the opening details where we can see all the women pursuing the (very few) available men and the gimmick with "Heloise and Abelard" showing both characters had a romantic side. This would have been much better though had they been properly presented as having "efficient" and workahoolic facade.

All in all, this is a good example of how routine Hollywood studios could be, even to the war effort message: boy meets girl, girl thinks she's in love with second banana; boy is ideallistic but has excellent idea to help the war effort; girl helps him; second banana turns out to be not as nice as we thought, etc, etc. You get the picture. I think today people forget that they really were assembly lines and/or don't realise the true meaning of B-film (or in this case a few letters down the alphabet, even if it's meant, I assume an A one...). In case they need to be reminded, this a good example: flat, dull and uninspired, and a waste of a excellent actress.

PS - the Hitler and Hirohito caricatures on Ed Browne's office are supposed to be his? Cause if they are they should have told the (excellent) artist not to sign it...

PPS - Some of the other posters for this film are worth looking at for the crass, tasteless and misogynistic taglines: "Manpower shortage? Not for this girl friday"; "When the men are ONE to TEN... a gal's gotta be good" - oh, and neither reflect the film...

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