We're Not Married. (Odeon, Leicester Square.) Son of Paleface.
(Carlton.)—Where's Charley ? (Warner.) AMERICAN films on American themes are more cloyingly complacent these days about the American way of life than in the self-questioning, self-satirising days of Front Page or Nothing Sacred. So it is good to taste even the rather milder sub-acidity behind the wit of We're Not Married, an episodic comedy of half-a-dozen couples whose marriages turn out to be invalid, and who are thus given a chance to think again after a couple of years' trial run. Their marriages had been performed by a semi-literate justice of the peace who had failed to notice that his appointment was post-dated (the part is played with endearing woolly-mindedness by Mr. Victor Moore), and it is part of the fun that the film pokes at American manners and morals that he was given the job by a State capitol crammed with his cousins and his aunts.
The various episodes slap, gently and not so gently, at sponsored broadcasting, the divorce and alimony laws, and beauty contests ; only one—inevitably the last, and inevitably the weakest—is senti- mental, and two are beautifully written and beautifully acted sketches. Miss Ginger Rogers and Mr. Fred Allen coo at each other and at their breakfast cereals like sucking doves as long as their microphone is live ; away from the broadcasting studio they hate each other almost too much to snarl. The opening sequence of this first episode, entirely silent, is a model piece of film-acting and film- direction—and very funny. As the courteous victim of a gold- digging wife and a blackmailing lawyer, Louis Calhern gives a politely comic performance fit for drawing-room comedy at the St. James's ; how elegantly a Texas oil millionaire can yield up alimony —and how smoothly turn the tables ! Had this been a French film we should be talking of a new Guitry.
The two other new American comedies are in a lower class„.than this. If " comedy," that is, is not too couth a word for the latest Bob Hope film, Son of Paleface, and for Where's Charley ?—a film adaptation of a musical-comedy adaptation of Charley's Aunt. Mr. Hope used to delight us with the wooden-faced neatness with which he put over the wisecracks provided (presumably) by his gag- writers,- the wooden face is not enough without the wisecracks. The jokes famished by trick-photography and an almost-talking horse do not fill the bill, and it would take the Marlene Dietrich of Destry Rides Again to give gusto to the songs that in this film Miss Jane Russell has to sing from the bar-counter of the Dirty Shame Saloon. Unlike Miss Russell's figure, the film falls flat.
So, too, does Where's Charley ? The original very simple joke lay in the contrast between what was virtually a pantomime dame and the sweet sobriety of Victorian Oxford. Fill the quadrangles of what I take to be St. John's (the film was made in Oxford) with all- singing, all-dancing, all-technicoloured undergraduates, all in little gorblimey caps and—where's Charley, and where's the point ? CYRIL RAY.