Saturday, February 7, 2009

A different Hope and Ball

TCM are showing The Facts of Life at 5:30 AM ET on February 8. No, not the popular TV show of the 1980s, but the 1960 movie starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. The movie is somewhat different from what they normally did, but both actors do a pretty good job at it.

The story revolves around two married couples in California: the Gilberts (played by Hope and Ruth Hussey), and the Weavers (played by Ball and Don De Fore). The two couples are part of a group that does a lot of things together, including spending an annual vacation in Acapulco. One of those vacations changes everything for them, however. Mr. Weaver has to stay behind on business, urging his wife to enjoy her time with the Gilberts. Unfortunately, she doesn't consider Mr. Gilbert as much of a friend as her husband does. Worse, Mrs. Gilbert gets sick in Acapulco, forcing Mr. Gilbert and Mrs. Weaver to spend time alone together. Here, Mrs. Weaver finds that Mr. Gilbert isn't anywhere near as bad as she thought he was; in fact, she's beginning to find herself falling in love with him!

Oops -- that's adultery. And adultery is bound to cause problems for both of their marriages. The Facts of Life handles the subject well, taking a tone that shows both the funny side of life, but also the fact that cheating on your spouse isn't just a laughing matter. Both Mr. Gilbert and Mrs. Weaver feel bad about what they do, even though it's all happened so naturally.

The Facts of Life is also a movie that's rather different from what Bob Hope and Lucille Ball normally did. It's very much one with grown-up sensibilities, with the things the two normally did to please their audiences not showing up so much. There's none of the Lucy Ricardo of I Love Lucy here; instead, she's a mature, middle-aged woman who's fallen into the adultery trap. If you're looking for the scatterbrainedness of The Long, Long, Trailer, or even Yours, Mine, and Ours, you won't find it here. Much the same holds true for Hope. He spent much of the later part of his career trying to come across as still being hip, and failing miserably. I've mentioned the dreadful I'll Take Sweden before as an example of this. There's none of that in The Facts of Life.

In Hope's case, it's a huge benefit, making his performance much better than it otherwise would be. It doesn't hurt Lucille Ball, either, but she was a good enough actress that she was fine in both sorts of roles. Not that she got to play this more serious role very often, which is a shame. Also, it all makes the movie less dated than the other movies dealing with the sexual revolution of the later 1960s.

Since The Facts of Life is coming on very early in the morning, you might want to get the DVD instead.

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