Saturday 16 June 2007

Mad About Men (1954) Ralph Thomas

Glynis Johns is back for the sequel to Miranda and this time she's in colour, a very bright Technicolor at that, which makes the makeup that shouldn't be there at all far more obvious. Johns isn't the only member of the original cast to reprise her role, Margaret Rutherford returning as Nurse Carey and continuing to steal every sceene she's ever in. The leading man though is now Donald Sinden, who is so young I didn't even recognise him until I got to hear his voice long enough. I know him as a much older man, but here he's a 31 year old actor playing a rich man called Jeff Saunders. He first meets Johns as Caroline Trewella.

Caroline is a schoolteacher who travels back to Smugglers Rest, the family home in Cornwall. It's nestled above the sea of course, and underneath Miranda and her fellow mermaid Berengaria sing songs to wake everyone up at night. Miranda persuades Caroline to let her take her place for two weeks and of course she turns everything upside down in no time flat, changing her fiancee, saving the house and causing no end of chaos. It's as much of a riot as the first film and Margaret Rutherford continues to prove that she had more fun making movies than anyone else in the history of cinema. Here she dances around like she was a young girl rather than a large woman of 62, overacting outrageously.

Mad About Men is just as much of a riot and just as much fun as the original but it's a lot more clumsy. The original was fluff, to be frank, but it transcended it's fluffiness by virtue of great performances, a hilarious script and an outrageous sense of the risque. This one is pure fluff though without any transcendence or even any real attempt to make the story believable. At least the original was consistent throughout.

This one takes a little while to get moving but ends up reasonably funny and even more risque, with whole conversations full of clever cattiness and double entendres. It even has Glynis Johns actually singing instead of being badly dubbed singing opera from the balcony of Covent Garden. However the characters, beyond Miranda herself, aren't a patch on the original film and mostly have little to do except flavour the background just a little. They don't have the depth to become anything more.

Dora Bryan, who I know from Last of the Summer Wine forty or so years later, is mostly tiresome as Berengaria as her character is merely childish. Peter Martyn is outrageously stiff as Caroline's fiancee, completely dull and obsessed with not spending money. Nicholas Phipps has fun as a moustached colonel and Anne Crawford is subtly spot on as his fiancee, two years before her unfortunate death to leukemia at 36. There's also Irene Handl, Deryck Guyler and Joan Hickson as Caroline's housekeeper, but none of them can bring depth to characters that don't have any. This one belongs almost entirely to Glynis Johns, with outrageous Margaret Rutherford a distant second and nobody else really in the running.

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