Monday, November 16, 2015

Easy Living (1949)

TCM is running a night of Victor Mature movies tonight, ending at 4:30 AM with Easy Living.

Mature plays Pete Wilson, who is the quarterback for the New York Chiefs, in an era when professional football was not king and the players didn't make all that much. That having been said, Wilson has done about as well as one possibly could out of football at the time, with a trophy wife Liza (Lizabeth Scott) who has become interior decorator to the smart set, and a presumptive offer to become the next coach at his old alma mater. That latter is apparently a big deal considering that college football was still a bigger thing than the pro game back then.

But there's a problem. Wilson isn't feeling well, and when he goes to a private doctor, it's discovered that he's been carrying a heart murmur all these years. Nowadays, they could probably do surgery to correct the problem, although the player would have to miss the remainder of the season. In 1949, however, medicine wasn't quite so advanced, and the diagnosis would have meant retire from playing football forthwith or else risk death. Well, it would be fairly easy to retire mid-season, especially considering that the ailment has already degraded his play to the point that the team is thinking of replacing him as the starting quarterback.

Again, however, there's a problem. Liza has liked living the good life in New York getting to meet all those high-class people when she does their redecorating for them. This even though she's really not all that good at it and is only getting the jobs because of her name. At any rate, however, she doesn't want to leave New York City for the life of a coach's wife at a midwestern state university. And dammit, she's going to do whatever it takes to make certain her husband is still living the good life for her sake, never mind what his sake involves!

There's even more going on with all of this. Lloyd Nolan plays Lenahan, the team's hands-on owner who sees Wilson's play degrading and is one of the people who wants to switch quarterbacks. His daughter-in-law Anne (Lucille Ball) is what seems to be a sort of executive assistant to him. She's a widow, and not certain she'd want to fall in love with another football player. But she is falling in love with Pete even though he's already married.

If you're a football fan, there's a lot interesting here to see how Hollywood looked at professional football before television (and then especially the Sabols and NFL Films) came along and revolutionized the game and made it a big money affair. I don't know how realistic it all is -- probably not very. I also found most of the performances apart from Mature's to be quite good. Scott turns out to be nasty as the grasping wife; Nolan is as good as ever playing his tough but ultimately sympathetic authority figure; and Lucille Ball in a drama is always something nice to see. Ball didn't get enough chances to show off her acting chops, but she really coud act.

It looks as though Easy Living is available from the Warner Archive collection. But make certain you're getting the 1949 film. There's also a 1937 screwball comedy called Easy Living. While it's a really good movie, it has nothing to do with the 1949 movie other than sharing a title.

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