MARRY ME AGAIN may be the first romcom snuff movie. Early on, we see hero Robert Cummings flying his plane in WWII, a big picture of his fiancee, Marie Wilson in his cockpit. He scores off his kills on this pic, all part of the movie’s cartoony approach (it’s by Frank Tashlin, a former Warner Bros animator).
What slightly chills the marrow is the way Cummings’ activity is intercut with real WWII aerial combat footage — real exploding aeroplanes, real death.
When later on Marie Wilson dreams of her honeymoon, we see a Spanish bullfight with a real, bloody beast, spears sticking from its sides.
There’s funny. And then there’s NOT funny.
In general, the movie has a stop-start quality stemming from Tashlin’s tendency to think only of getting from one gag to the next in the shortest possible time. Only later would he master feature-length story structure and pacing so that his great features, like WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? don’t appear like a series of black-out sketches, but as coherent narratives — even with all the whizz-bang visual gags exploding in every corner. The jokes become architecture rather than decoration.
Marie Wilson, whose work I didn’t know, is very cute and endearingly goofy, but maybe she and Cummings are trying a little too hard. Cummings certainly is. When somebody isn’t a natural comedian, but they want to show how keen they are, the results are apt to get a little gruesome. I think of Jeffrey Hunter’s efforts in Tashlin’s final, misbegotten abortion of a film, THE PRIVATE NAVY OF SGT O’FARRELL*, and can scarce suppress a shudder. Every time Hunter pulls a funny face a Japanese fighter pilot explodes.
*Although this last film is indeed bad — horribly, savagely bad — it is not entirely devoid of interest. When a plane full of women is flown in to satisfy the libidinous grunts in Bob Hope’s unit, Tashlin cranes in on each of the expectant faces, awaiting the disembarkation of Lollobrigidian lovelies. Hatchet-faced Phyllis Diller appears and Hope’s erect bouquet promptly wilts. It’s not exactly witty but it’s served up with surprising filmic gusto for such an arthritic comedy. (Bob Hope, at this stage in his life, has acquired a crinkled, harsh, cruel face which does not inspire laughter, ever.)
Joe Dante, a Tashlin fan, rightly disparages this last movie, but that didn’t stop him quoting the mass-crane-in sequence above in THE ‘BURBS, during what is nominally a Sergio Leone parody. What it actually is, is a Tashlin swipe. Dante trumps the maestro’s hand by tracking in on not only all of the main characters, but also the dog.