Since we started off the month of May a few weeks ago with a movie featuring our Screen Team Of The Month (Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour), it’s time to dig into their solo films! So, going with the principle of “ladies first,” we’ll start with one of Dorothy Lamour’s films, the 1948 Lulu Belle (based on the 1926 play of the same name by Charles MacArthur and Edward Sheldon), co-starring George Montgomery!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody The Giant Killer (1947)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)
(Length: 6 minutes, 47 seconds)
With a housing shortage, Woody Woodpecker can’t find a place to stay. Buck Beaver gives him some magic beans, and a beanstalk takes him up to the giant’s castle in the clouds. This one was fun, although, at the same time, it wasn’t enough. It’s fun seeing Woody’s version of “Jack And The Beanstalk,” as the gags themselves are quite fun. The problem is there is too much exposition and not enough interplay with Woody and the Giant (who spends a good chunk of his appearance sleeping through Woody’s antics). Still, I had a few good laughs with this one, and certainly look forward to revisiting it in the future!
And Now For The Main Feature…
In Natchez, Mississippi, young up-and-coming lawyer George Davis (George Montgomery) visits the Blue Catfish bar and café on behalf of one of his clients. While he is wrapping up his business, one of the performers, Lulu Belle (Dorothy Lamour), is getting abused by her former lover, and George steps in to fend him off. Lulu is instantly interested in him, but George (an engaged man) manages to turn her down. However, she wants what she wants, and she later visits him at his office, where she causes trouble between him and his fiancée. He later comes back to Lulu after his engagement is ended, and the two get married. He gets rid of his law practice, and they move to New Orleans, where they live lavishly in a hotel. George struggles to find work, while Lulu takes up a new relationship with boxer Butch Cooper (Greg McClure). At one of Butch’s boxing matches, she meets successful gambler Mark Brady (Albert Dekker), whom she convinces to give George work as a boxer (out of town, of course). Mark, meanwhile, offers Lulu a job as a singer at his club, where he can keep an eye on her. George sees all this going on, and begins drinking heavily. Lulu begins yet another relationship with married millionaire Harry Randolph (Otto Kruger) when he visits the club (since he has connections on Broadway). Between this and Butch’s continued teasing, George has had enough and picks a fight with Butch, with the fight ending when George stabs Butch in the eye with a fork. George runs from the scene, but is caught and sent to prison for a few years. During that time, Harry takes Lulu to Broadway, where she becomes a big sensation. However, even though she had divorced him, she slowly comes to the realization that she loves George and not her career. However, all the men that she has had a relationship with have come to town, and she and Harry end up being shot. Police Commissioner John Dixon (Addison Richards) is in charge of trying to find out who did it, but can he find out the truth from everybody?
Like all of Dorothy Lamour’s solo films (those outside of the Road series and her films with Bob Hope), this one was new to me. I will readily admit that I liked Dottie in this film! In general, I found myself comparing her character here to her character in Road To Zanzibar (1941). In that film, she is a manipulator in that she tries to get what she wants out of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s characters (as she attempts to make her way to a richer suitor), and she takes things even further here, without any trace of conscience whatsoever (at least, not for most of the early part of the film). Apart from her performance, though, I find myself with mixed feelings towards this movie. Dottie is very much the femme fatale here, but, at the same time, this movie never really quite hits the film noir aspects very well. In general, that’s not helped by her more musical moments (mostly, they just consist of her singing on stage or in nightclubs). The movie also tries to veer into murder mystery territory, but it’s not that effective there, either. The whole tale is essentially told in flashbacks by George Montgomery’s George Davis and Lulu’s friend Molly Benson (as played by Glenda Farrell), and really doesn’t leave too much room for some of the others involved, all of whom are “suspects” at the end when the police commissioner tries to finally figure out who did it. In general, it just feels like the writing is where it all fails, which ruins some of the characterizations for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an enjoyable movie, especially as a chance to see more of Dorothy Lamour as an actress. It’s just one that I would come closer to recommending as a rental instead of a purchase (outside of a really good sale price).
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.
Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes
My Rating: 6/10
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