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Thursday, 3 May 2007

Granny Get Your Gun (1940) George Amy

Based on a story by Perry Mason creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, of all people, I've been waiting for this one for a long while. It crops up on the TCM schedules reasonably often, but they never seem to show it because important people keep dying and so prompt a change of programming. It's all very inconvenient and all those old names really ought to know better. Anyway, TCM finally picked a day when nobody decided to die, so I got my chance at last.

The granny of the title is May Robson, of course, given that it's 1940 and it's a story about a cantankerous yet lovable granny. She'd been awesome for years in that sort of role, from Capra's Lady for a Day on down and she's as solid here as she ever was, even though the film looks like it was shot so quickly that it can't have been far off live, possibly because shooting was delayed to allow Robson to finish making Four Wives. Better still, she's teamed up here with the best foil I could imagine for her, Harry Davenport as a decent country lawyer who helps her out. The job is a tough one, and a gritty one too given that this is a Warner Brothers film, and the Warners put grit everywhere including comedies, but with Robson and Davenport on the case, how could they lose?

We're in Gold City, Nevada, and May Robson plays Minerva Hatton, a wildfire old battleship whose granddaughter Julie has got herself into a lot of trouble. She's going through a divorce from a conniving little rat of a husband who is playing every card he can to steal away their daughter so as to get control of her trust fund. Julie can't do much about it because she's got herself into debt gambling and can't pay her bills. Worse still, rat husband Phil turns up dead and it looks like Julie did the job. Naturally it's up to Granny to save the day and she starts by taking the rap.

Now this is as shaky as you'd expect from a 56 minute B programmer from 1940, but May Robson is a riot as a rich old granny who remains as down to earth as you could expect from making it rich in pioneer country. It doesn't look like they had enough time to rehearse at all, so we're not watching masterclass acting in the slightest, especially from Clem Bevans who overacts nearly as badly as David Caruso or Nicolas Cage. The fact that the whole story is complete nonsense can't help either, but everyone involved is obviously having so much fun that none of it matters in the slightest.

It's hard to imagine May Robson and Harry Davenport playing parts that aren't fun to watch and they certainly don't disappear here. While enjoying the hokum I daydreamed about playing opposite them in pantomime or wondering how Murder She Wrote would have turned out with Robson in the lead. I even wondered how she could have done as an action hero, given that she apparently did the car chase scenes herself, and not all of them were shot in front of a rear projection screen. I think I'll record this again next time it's on, always supposing that nobody famous dies just to spite me again.

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