Monday, May 11, 2009

Callaway Went Thataway

Getting away from the past few British movies I've recommended, the next selection is something decidedly American: Callaway Went Thataway, Monday at 10:15 PM on TCM.

Set in the early days of TV, it stars future TV star Fred MacMurray as a marketing man who, with his business partner Dorothy MacGuire, faces a dilemma. They took the old cowboy movies of a popular screen cowboy and repackaged them for TV. They wound up with a hit, but now need new episodes. So, they look for the actor who had played the cowboy back in the day (Howard Keel), and eventually find him -- and discover that he's given in to the bottle, and is in no condition to do TV.

After some consideration, they get the idea of finding a new actor to play the cowboy. After all, those movies were old, and nobody will really notice it if the actor looks similar but isn't quite the same person. It helps that they're able to find Howard Keel playing a dual role in this movie, both as the drunk old star, and as the stand-in. No wonder he looks like Howard Keel.

Naturally, though, this doesn't solve the problem entirely. Howard Keel #2 takes the job, but you know that drunk Howard Keel is going to discover that his Doppelgänger has taken what should be his job -- and Howard Keel #1 wants his job back from Howard Keel #2.

Callaway Went Thataway is billed as a comedy, and it's pleasant enough. That having been said, it's nothing groundbreaking. The plot is predictable, and the actors were capable of much better -- just imagine MacMurray in Double Indemnity, or Howard Keel doing more prestigious movies like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Just as both men went on to fairly long-term roles in TV (on My Three Sons and Dallas respectively), Callaway Went Thataway plays more like an extended TV show than a major motion picture. (And speaking of TV stars, watch for a small role by future castaway Natalie Schaefer.)

Callaway Went Thataway is not available on DVD, and probably won't be any time soon.

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