Monday, April 09, 2007

Slightly French is Slightly Good
I saw Slightly French over the weekend and submitted this review to Internet Movie Database today.

Slightly French is a rather a leaden trifle, which today is chiefly of interest to students of Douglas Sirk’s films or Dorothy Lamour or Don Ameche fans. I thought the implausible plot would have worked better in the late 1920s or early ’30s, and found at IMDB that it was a remake of Let’s Fall in Love, a 1933 vehicle for Ann Sothern. By 1949, passing off a New York Irish carnival dancer as the Parisian cousin of a vocal coach, and tying her starring in a movie to bringing back a fired director, was too great a suspension of nearly anyone’s disbelief. (And note that Lamour was 35 in 1949 while Sothern was 25 when she made Let’s Fall in Love. Lamour was far from old but the plot would have been more convincing if she were younger.) The breezy style needed to carry it off was just a memory, at least on the Universal studio lot.

Nevertheless, everyone involved in the production was enough of a professional to keep a not-too-demanding viewer entertained with the plot twists, snappy dialogue, and musical numbers. Lamour gets to sing — in French-accented English — a short version of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's “Let’s Fall in Love,” the only song in the picture that sticks in the memory, to excuse her calling a playwright at a press party a “plagiarist.” She dances a little, too, though in the big dance number set in the streets of Paris the soloist looks younger and thinner. Ameche is a stereotypical egomaniacal director, single and living with his sister in an oceanfront Hollywood-moderne mansion. The explanation for his bachelorhood is excessive self-love, but his best-friend producer is similarly single. Inquiring minds inevitably will speculate on the coincidence, though both end up symmetrically in love by the picture’s end.

Meant for the bottom half of a double-bill, Slightly French never quite gets out of its B-picture category, but for a low-budget black-and-white musical it isn’t half bad.