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The Big Street (1942)
Topic Started: Nov 5 2017, 08:39 PM (124 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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The Big Street (1942) Dir. Irving Reis
An RKO-Radio Picture
88 min. / B&W / 1.33:1
On DVD from Warner Bros.

Lucille Ball is a spoiled, horribly behaved showgirl who treats everyone like dirt, particularly infatuated busboy Henry Fonda(!). When she's crippled in an accident by her abusive boss/lover, Hank takes it on himself to take care of her, which only causes more disdain to rain on him from her side of the street. Taking her to Miami for her health, he gets involved in criminal activity in an attempt to make her days happy ones; will she ever recognize that the big lug is the best thing in her miserable life?

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this; the plot may sound like a standard tearjerker, but that's only because I have so far neglected to mention that this film is based on a story by (and the movie is produced by) Mr. Damon Runyon - so it's full of colorful characters, funny street talk, gambling, and good humor, even though the overall tone of the picture is surprisingly dark.

I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed Henry Fonda, not one of my favorites - and c'mon, a busboy? What, they couldn't get Arnold Stang or Jonathan Haze? That's just silly, but the darn guy is so earnest I couldn't help but like the big shnook, whose name in the film is "Little Pinks" because his last name is Pinkerton and he's taller than his younger brother, Big Pinks. Hey, I TOLD you this was Damon Runyon land.

Lucille Ball, in a quite dramatic role, is genuinely terrific, and it's no wonder she once called this her favorite of her own films. Her singing voice is dubbed (thankfully) but that aside, she's wonderful, and this is now my favorite of her films, too.

Other enjoyable character actors in the film include Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins, Barton MacLane as the villain (for once), brief but fun bits from Louise Beavers and Hans Conried, and - get this - Eugene Pallette as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, whom we all remember so fondly as the guy who sat down so as to not rock the boat in Guys and Dolls. Oh, and Ozzie Nelson and his band play, too, but that didn't look like Harriet to me.

Million-dollar Dialog:
Nicely-Nicely: "A fat guy's always listening to love stories but he's never got any to tell."

Miss Ball, on romance: "Love is that thing that gives you one room, two kids, and three chins."

I liked this movie an awful lot, but then, so far I've pretty much loved every Damon Runyon film I've ever seen. The DVD is good, with a musical short I didn't watch called Calling All Girls and a funny and creative cartoon called The Hep Cat (yeah, i Did watch THAT).
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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