The Talk of the Town ★★★½

There are a few things I don't like about this movie.

The prologue is so awkwardly smushed together and rushed through in order to set up the comic premise -- a wrongly convicted man needs to hide out in a house of a woman he has liked from a distance, a woman who that same very night (well actually the next night, but you know how secretaries mix dates up all the time especially when they are getting married) is renting the house to an esteemed law professor. Sometimes when you actually write down a movie's premise it's even more ridiculous than you first thought. I prefer my screwball comedies where couples are getting divorced, or basically anything that doesn't take five minutes of elaborate screen time to explain all the back story.

Also the title of the movie. That's the problem when you have such a ridiculous plot, it's hard to find a title that will do it justice. Talk of the Town is generic enough that it gives nothing away about the plot, but at the same time it isn't quite boring enough to be forgettable, offering a little bit of promise to a possible audience member for excitement. And look at the poster too, the three leads, all wonderful, looking as staid as possible, staring off in one direction. Not even a hint of a smile. Did the people marketing this movie have any clue what they were trying to sell? The poster makes the film look like Oscar bait. A serious drama. A snooze. (And I know by some of the reviews that people here have felt that last descriptor is accurate.)

Which is a shame, because once the premise has been accepted by the viewer (somewhat reluctantly), the movie actually works pretty well. The three actors here are among my favorites. My heart beats for Cary Grant of this era, and it beats a little bit faster for Jean Arthur. The two of them together are wonderful, though perhaps the fact they both starred in an all-time favorite Only Angels Have Wings works in their favor here. Maybe I am transplanting the utter joy of that movie, or at least some of it, onto this one. Regardless why, it works.

Ronald Colman is someone I am getting to know better. Here he does a great job with a (possibly generic) character, the stuffy law professor. He could be a caricature, but he isn't. The script, for all its faults in plotting, at least contains consistent characters. Colman's professor believes in justice but he believes in the law the most, and all of his actions in the movie are dictated by this moral code. Yes this is a silly comedy, but he never wavers from this for the sake of plot.

I think I will gladly watch this again. Next time perhaps skipping the intro.

And I haven't even talked about the ending. (That is the coda -- the climax is fine). But it's too late to start talking about the ending. Let me just say that next time I will be skipping that too.

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