Sunday, December 14, 2008

Zany Lucille Ball

I mentioned in the obituary for Van Johnson that he worked with Lucille Ball in Yours, Mine, and Ours; he also worked with her in Easy to Wed, the remake of Libeled Lady. Neither of those Van Johnson-Lucille Ball movies is currently on the TCM schedule any time soon (pending a schedule change, of course). Fans of Lucille Ball, however, can see her near her zaniest in The Fuller Brush Girl, at 9:00 AM on December 15.

Ball stars as a young woman who is thoroughly incompetent at everything she does. She's engaged to Eddie Albert, who works as a clerk for a shipping company. He gets a promotion to a better position, not knowing that his boss is planning to use him as the fall guy for a smuggling scheme. She, meanwhile, ends up as a saleswoman for the Fuller Brush company. Unfortunately, things go wrong when the boss' wife ends up dead, Ball winds up unconscious, and wakes up to find she's the prime suspect -- and has no memory of what actually happened! So, it's up to her and Eddie Albert to try to solve the murder mystery, with both the cops and the real bad guys hot on their tails.

Lucille Ball is pretty far out there in The Fuller Brush Girl, much more so than in the aforementioned Yours, Mine, and Ours, and even more than she was in I Love Lucy. As a result, the movie might not be for everybody's taste. I personally found some of the humor to be overbroad to the point of not being so funny, and other scenes were contrived, most notably an extended sequence at the end with a talking parrot that just happens to say all the right things to drive the plot, much like the radio on Gilligan's Island talked back to the castaways. It looks funny on paper, but in the execution, it falls flat.

As far as I'm aware, The Fuller Brush Girl has not been released to DVD, so this is your rare chance to watch the movie and judge for yourself. Frankly, I would have preferred to see the similar, but better comedy Miss Grant Takes Richmond, in which Ball stars opposite William Holden. Unfortunately, that too is not available on DVD.

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