Friday, April 28, 2017

About Mrs. Leslie

Almost a year ago, I briefly mentioned the movie About Mrs. Leslie. It's running on TCM again tonight at midnight, and is worth a watch.

Mrs. Vivien Leslie (Shirley Booth) is a now unmarried woman living in Los Angeles, running a rooming house. Among her roomers are an older couple who are only in town to deal with a relative in hospital, a young woman who wants to make it in Hollywood and seems to be a party girl, and a young man who would probably be better for the young woman, but does he have the gumption to convince her of it? Vivien tries to make everybody's lives a little less humdrum in her own subtle way.

Meanwhile, there's the story of how Vivien wound up in Los Angeles. Fifteen year ago, before World War II, she was working as a nightclub singer in New York (yeah, Shirley Booth of the 1950s as a nightclub siren). Into the nightclub come a couple of businessmen, including George Leslie (Robert Ryan). George is captivated by Vivien, and Vivien seems flattered by the man's erudition. He makes her a strange offer: accompany him on a trip to California for six weeks, and after that time they'll go their separate ways.

Amazingly, she takes him up on the offer, and unsurprisingly, the two fall in love. But there's a catch: George Leslie is only using his first and middle names. His last name would give the game away as he's in the news and once the war comes he's one of those people who serves the government by offering his expertise free of charge, like the Charles Coburn character in The More the Merrier. And he's already married into a prominent family. Of course Vivien finds out eventually, but what will that do to their relationship? And what will happen to the folks in her romming house and the girl next door?

It's with good reason that TCM is running About Mrs. Leslie as part of the Spotlight on post-war melodramas: boy does this one fall into that category. It's actually not a bad little movie however. That probably has a lot to do with the two leads, both excellent actors who could rise above less-than-stellar material. And the material here is at times less than stellar. Most of the screen time is given to Booth, with Ryan close behind; the stories of the rooming house tenants are decidedly secondary, thankfully.

I'm not certain if About Mrs. Leslie has ever been released to DVD, so you'll have to catch the rare TCM showing.

1 comment:

joel65913 said...

Shirley didn't make many films and I'm sure the consensus would be that Come Back, Little Sheba is her best but I like this one better. It's a lovely little drama told in remembrance. Shirley and Robert Ryan a fine and surprisingly simpatico match. They're pretty much the whole show, the only other one I remember is the neighbor's daughter and only because she is such an odious little brat. Loved Shirley's number in the bar, she had a sort of Sophie Tucker vibe.