Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Susan Slept Here (1954)

As fond as I am of Christmas movies, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of the Happy Holidays Blogathon, hosted by Pure Entertainment Preservation Society (and I thank them for letting me join in on the festivities)! And with that, it’s time for the 1954 comedy Susan Slept Here with Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds!

Screenwriter Mark Christopher (Dick Powell) has been in a rut ever since he won an Oscar. On Christmas Eve, one cop (who had consulted on one of Mark’s movies) and his partner bring 17-year-old juvenile delinquent Susan Landis (Debbie Reynolds) to his apartment, since Mark had previously mentioned to the cop that he had wanted to talk to a juvenile delinquent to help come up with a story. They leave her there, with plans to come back the day after Christmas so she doesn’t have to spend the holiday in jail. Susan doesn’t trust Mark (and he’s not thrilled with the idea, either), but after spending part of the night gaining each other’s trust (especially after Susan accidentally causes a fight between Mark and his girlfriend), they start to open up to each other. Mark learns about Susan making her mother go on a honeymoon with her new husband (which she only agrees to after Susan claimed she wanted to marry a guy she knew and her mother gave her written consent). When the police come back quicker than expected, he decides to take Susan to Las Vegas to get married (so that she would have a means of support and not go back to jail). After dancing all night at the clubs, they returned to Mark’s apartment, where he left a sleeping Susan and immediately left to go work on a story at a cabin in the mountains. While he’s away, he tries to have his lawyer get Susan to sign some annulment papers, but she is convinced that she has married the man she loves. The question remaining is whether he will come to the same conclusion?

Personally, I’m of the opinion that this movie qualifies as a Christmas movie. I’ll admit, there is some room for debate, but close to half the movie does take place around that time. And after all, the cops are trying to offer Susan a delay in being arrested to begin with due to the holiday spirit! But it’s still a fun movie to watch any time of the year.

And what a cast! We have Dick Powell as one of the leads (who, at 50, admittedly looks older than the 35-year-old character he’s supposed to be playing), who plays the character as sympathetic, without him ever making any advances. Alvy Moore is fun as Mark’s buddy Virgil, who works for Mark (but doing what, who knows, as Susan calls it when she says it is a “phony job”), and Virgil is certainly a much more lucid character than I’m used to with Alvy Moore, considering he is best known as the ever confused (and confusing) county agent Hank Kimball on classic sitcom Green Acres. Anne Francis is Mark’s fiance Isabella Alexander, who is generally a hoot as the spoiled daughter of a senator, and she spends most of her screen time furious with Susan, either when she answers Mark’s phone or when they meet in person. Comedian Red Skelton gets a quick, silent cameo near the end of the movie.

But Debbie Reynolds is the heart of this movie as Susan Landis, and makes it work so well! From the moment we meet her, when she is screaming and fighting with the cop as he tries to drag her in (and she does it in a way only Debbie Reynolds could do), we see just how she got into trouble (but at the same time, can easily understand why she would be putting up such a fuss). As we get to know her along with Mark, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for her by the time the cops come back early. And I know I’m cheering for her when she has the police escort Isabella from the apartment (especially since the cop carrying Isabella out had just had a picture frame purposely dropped on his feet by Isabella only a few moments before). The dream sequence is a little odd, but Debbie makes up for it (even though it has some dancing, I can’t quite call it a dream ballet, as it utilizes Dick Powell, Alvy Moore and Anne Francis besides Debbie, but she is the only one really doing much dancing). As a whole, just a wonderful movie to watch around Christmastime (or any other time of the year)! It may be the type that wouldn’t get made today (and for good reason), but it’s still a lot of fun!

While the Warner Archive Collection had previously made this movie available on DVD, their Blu-ray release a few years back was a wonderful improvement, really bringing out some of the vivid colors! So that would certainly be the way I would recommend seeing this almost-forgotten gem! This movie is one hour, thirty-eight minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Murder, My Sweet (1944) – Dick Powell

The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Debbie Reynolds – Tammy And The Bachelor (1957)

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Red Skelton – Ocean’s 11 (1960)

4 thoughts on “Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Susan Slept Here (1954)

  1. The age difference between Reynolds and Powell is a troubling aspect of the movie, but the script is so amusing and the performances by our leads are so energetic and terrific that Susan Slept Here works. Powell, in his last movie performance, in particular, throws himself into the silliness with abandon.

    I’m crazy about the crazy dream sequence as director Frank Tashlin came from the world of animation it is the only thing that really makes sense!

    Merry Christmas!

    – Caftan Woman

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like I said, I enjoy the cast in this movie, and I think they all work well. Is the age difference unsettling? Yes, to a degree, but the movie portrays it in a tasteful way (which would not be the case if it were remade today), and it’s just fun to harken back to a simpler, more innocent time (at least in the movies, anyways).
      My chief objection to the dream sequence is not how crazy it is, or anything like that. It’s just, with all the “dream ballets” that seemed to be all the rage at that time, it becomes fairly obvious that Debbie Reynolds is the only one of the group with any real dance ability (but, as I said, she more than makes up for the other three)!
      Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you, too!

      Like

  2. I pre-judged this movie and expected to dislike it. But it surprised me and that is mainly due to Reynolds effervescent performance. I also really enjoyed the mid-century modern holiday decorations. It all allowed me to overlook the icky factor of the age difference between the two main characters.

    Like

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