Thursday, December 2, 2010

#292: Unfaithfully Yours

(Preston Sturges, 1948)

I hadn't seen Unfaithfully Yours in a while, so when I saw it was on Netflix streaming I decided to give it another try and see if I was wrong about ranking it a notch below Sturges's great masterpieces, most notably The Lady Eve and Sullivan's Travels. The film first came to my attention in one comedy ranking list or another that I read when I was younger, claiming that it was one of the best comedies ever. Considering that the film had rarely come up in descriptions of Sturges's work - along with the two films above, most often mentioned are the screwball classic The Palm Beach Story and the Code-defying The Miracle of Morgan's Creek - my interest was piqued. However, the first viewing was a moderate disappointment. There were certainly great moments that confirmed Sturges's touch, and the film moved along at a crisp and light pace, despite the wickedly black humor at the core of the film. But it lacked any compelling characters, and Rex Harrison (though I love him) was simply unable to carry a film like Henry Fonda, or even really Joel McCrea.

Watching it again, I had many of the same issues. I generally love dark films, and there's a certain pleasure in watching Sturges's get away with a fantasy sequence in which his main character murders someone with great gusto (though the gender dynamics of the scene leave me a little cold). But I don't know if it's really earned enough to be warranted, and I think the film sags without a truly memorable star to prop up the weightiness of the subject matter. Still, it's a very enjoyable movie, and a worthwhile watch. But it's not a classic by any means, and I'd much rather see Palm Beach Story in the collection.

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