Sunday, June 15, 2008

Listen, Darling (Edwin L. Marin, 1938) B-

Listen, Darling has the beginnings of an interesting drama about womanhood in the 1930's, but it's ultimately a perfectly respectable family comedy that only aims to please. Mary Astor plays Dottie, a widow with two kids who, due to a lack of money, is considering marrying the town banker so she can provide a future for her children. Her oldest child, Pinkie (Judy Garland) sees her sadness and comes up with a plan with her best friend Buzz (Freddie Bartholomew) to take Dottie out of the city for awhile in their trailer so she can forget about the banker guy. Out in the middle of the woods, Dottie meets a single Walter Pidgeon and they try to find out if a relationship is possible between the two. What I loved most about Listen, Darling was this one scene in particular in which Astor's Dottie describes what it's like to be a single woman in the 1930's with kids to raise. In this scene, she tells Garland's Pinkie to get voice lessons so she'll have something to fall back on in case something happens to her husband- which is exactly is what Dottie believes she should have done so she wasn't in the situation she is in now. This little exchange is brilliant because it's so subtle and not delivered with some sledgehammer speech that it's even more effective. There's not much room in Listen, Darling for a lot of deep acting, but the cast does generally well with what they are giving. It's especially nice to see Walter Pidgeon in something where he's not riding the coattails of the fabulous Greer Garson. Mary Astor, who I've realized within the past month that I love A LOT, is pretty great here, though not especially Oscar-worthy or anything. Judy Garland is given a nice juvenile role, and you can see some of her Dorothy from next year's The Wizard of Oz peeking through, but the real highlight here is her flawless rendition of "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart."

Off topic, but during a scene between Pidgeon and Bartholomew, he asks if Pidgeon's a "woman-hater" because he's an older eligible bachelor; is this 1930's slang for homosexual?

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