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Saturday, 28 July 2007

Pillow to Post (1945) Vincent Sherman

The Coast Oil Well Supply Company has run out of salesmen because the war is taking them all away. The only thing left to do is to employ the boss's daughter, Jean, to become the first saleslady they've ever had. The problem is that the first deal that she has the potential to land is in an Army town where the only way she can find a place to stay is to be married to a Army Lieutenant with no kids. So she has to hook herself a Lieutenant so she can get a room so she can be taken out to dinner by an oil well owner in order to land the sale. And naturally this doesn't all work out as she'd expect.

Jean Howard is played by Ida Lupino, who demonstrates as much of a talent for comedy as she did for everything else she did. As the only female director in Hollywood for decades, it was pretty obvious that she had something going for her, but the more I see her both on screen and behind it the more I realise that she had a heck of a lot of talents. Here she reminded me a lot of Jean Arthur, merely without the husky voice.

The Lieutenant she manages to hook as a temporary husband is William Prince who I've seen in a few things without noticing him. He's up to the task here but remains not particularly noticeable. I kept feeling like he should have been in a 60s sitcom, but apparently ended up mostly in soap operas. His commanding officer who manages to cause no end of chaos is Sydney Greenstreet who is as fun to watch as he always is.

There's also Ruth Donnelly, Johnny Mitchell, a guest appearance by Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra, and most notably of all, Willie Best as Lucille the Colonial Auto Court porter. Best was a highly underrated actor who suffered from the typical treatment black actors got in Hollywood for decades, but who had an unparallelled sense of timing, even when acting like the stereotypical idiot.

Hiding in uncredited roles are people like Dorothy Dandridge, duetting with Louis Armstrong; a young Robert Blake escaping from the Red Ryder westerns for a while as an obnoxious kid who keeps annoying Jean; and William Conrad as a motorcycle cop. The story they get to appear in is no classic but it's a pretty decent comedy with a lot of clever and thoughtful little touches that elevate it above the average.

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