Screwball Yoga

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Elisha Cook Jnr, disturbingly buff, demonstrates Hollywood’s idea of the lotus position in HE MARRIED HIS WIFE.

This is a fun 1940 screwball comedy from Roy Del Ruth, with a Wodehousian country house setting and the deliriously dithering Mary Boland as hostess. Good support from Cesar Romero as a Latin Lothario. Joel McCrea has plenty experience of this kind of thing, and Nancy Kelly shows herself more than capable of joining in the fun — if her career had taken off she could have made some classics.

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I’m a little concerned with the film’s treatment of its shnook character, played by Lyle Talbot. Firstly, I think you can assess a film’s goodheartedness by how it treats its schnook. If the schnook is obnoxious, all bets are off. But if he’s basically blameless, and guilty of no more than not being the hero, then I want him to have some kind of happy ending, like Ralph Bellamy in HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, or Rudy Vallee in THE PALM BEACH STORY. An exception to this is HIS GIRL FRIDAY, where Ralph Bellamy (schnook again) is shamefully mistreated, but then that film doesn’t have a very good heart, and it wants you to know it.

Secondly, Talbot doesn’t have form as a schnook. He’s a faded thirties star, going soft, but nothing in his persona tells us that we should find him funny. He’s unhappily in love with Joel McCrea’s ex-wife, and woos her with McCrea’s enthusiastic encouragement (Joel just wants to be able to stop paying alimony so he can spend his money on horses). Nothing about this scenario inclines me to want to see the guy mistreated.

But that’s the only cloud in the sky, here. The script, by six different scribes including John O’Hara (!), is pretty funny, and the playing of the likes of Boland, with her oblivious fluting dither, amplifies that. Asides from the strange yogic practices of Mr Cook, Jnr, the movie also has one other enduringly odd moment. William Edmunds, looking rather like the High Lama, plays a nightclub waiter who takes a tip from Joel McCrea on his horse, and loses his rent money. There’s a bitter confrontation between the two as McCrea is hauled of for non-payment of alimony, after which Edmunds very visibly mouths the words “Fuck you!”

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At least, that’s what *I* think he’s saying. My lip-reading may be defective — I would welcome second, and third opinions.

6 Responses to “Screwball Yoga”

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    The Schnook’s daughter, Margaret, has just published a lovely memoir of her father.

    Are those really ECr’s nipples–or are they “male falsies”? They’re almost as big as his specs!

  2. David Boxwell Says:

    ECJr.’s character is named “Dickie Brown”. The mind reels . . .

  3. David Boxwell Says:

    Lyle the Schnook, George the Jerk (ECJr. in Kubrick’s THE KILLING):

    Coming out shooting as Val (Vince Edwards) asks: “Where’s the jerk? Where’s George?” [cut]
    “The jerk’s right here!” [bam, bam, bam!]

  4. Jenny Eardley Says:

    He looks like Gustav Mahler to me. Thanks I will look out for this one.

  5. Mary Boland refers to Elisha’s character as “that brown boy.”

    I think his nipples have indented due to yogic techniques, hence their shadowy immensity.

    In other news, Thatcher is dead. I wonder what there is to drink in the house? Some kind of celebration seems to be required.

    Does her passing balance the loss of Jesus Franco, Bigas Luna and Les Blank? I guess not, since the former three were still productive artists, whereas she had already done her worst as a politician and was reduced to a harmless husk.

  6. David Boxwell Says:

    I might get around, to celebrate, to watching Streep’s impersonation–but not right now.

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