Saturday, July 07, 2018

Double Dynamite (1951)

Not that this is a terrible film by any means but with its headliners, you would expect so much more. Frank Sinatra, Groucho Marx and Jane Russell is a pretty good package of stars and yet this feels like warm milk for much of the running time. There is a lot of pizzazz potential here but for reasons unknown both Sinatra and Russell play characters with none. Groucho is his usual wisecracking one-liner self but most of them fall short of their mark. Laughs.

All three actors were at interesting points in their career which may be why they ended up in this RKO production. Sinatra was in a career swoon (check out the position of his name on the posters) after years of popularity as both a singer and actor. His divorce to his wife and affair with Ava Gardner was met with general hostility by the public (how times have changed) and in a series of concerts there were plenty of empty seats. This film didn't help much and it wasn't until 1953 with From Here to Eternity that his career was revived thankfully.

Groucho's great and I mean great film career was a thing of the far past but he had just brought You Bet Your Life to TV and that was to make him an iconic figure once again. Russell had had a strange film career - beginning with Howard Hughes's The Outlaw (1943) which made her a pin-up star but the film had a haphazard release and she sort of disappeared till Bob Hope's The Paleface in 1948 and then again not much until Hughes bought RKO and pushed her career. But it wasn't until she left RKO and made Gentleman Prefer Blondes with MGM that her career took off. I would have to imagine that the title of this film was derived from her famous 38 assets though she keeps them well-sheltered here.

So the film. Sinatra plays a tweeby bank teller as does goodie-two shoes Russell. They want to get married but have no money until Sinatra saves a mobster from a mugging and in gratitude the mobster places a few bets for Sinatra that win him $60,000. With a $45 a week salary that is manna from heaven. Unfortunately, at the same time the bank discovers that $75,000 is missing and complications arise. This is a comedy btw and there are moments in which their friend Groucho is good - in particular his interview with the bank President. "What is your address", Groucho "My address? I want your address. I am giving my money to you". There are also two musical numbers - they needed more - a duet between Sinatra and Groucho and then between Sinatra and Russell. Though written by legends Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, they feel like throwaways.

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