Monday, June 1, 2009

What is marriage?

Last month I mentioned two of Fox's anthology movies. A third one is coming up tomorrow at 9:00 AM ET: We're Not Married!.

The movie starts with Fred Allen and Ginger Rogers stopping at a justice of the peace on Christmas Eve. The need to get married for the sake of their careers as the "husband and wife" hosts of a radio show, and they're fortunate to find a justice of the peace who can marry them. He has a bit of difficulty, though in that it's his first day on the job, but he has no qualms about marrying the young couple in love.

Fast forward two and a half years. The "happily married couple" are constantly bickering, but have to stay married if they want to keep their lucrative radio show going. Events reach a head with an interesting dilemma for them: it turns out that the justice of the peace who had married them wasn't officially a JP at the time he performed their marriage; although he got the letter informing him of his commission, that commission wasn't vaild until the new year. Worse, in between Christmas and New Year's, the not-yet-JP performed four other marriages as well, all of which are technically invalid. Oh well; just send each of the couples a letter informing them of the clerical error, and we'll even refund you your money.

Naturally, though, the news is problematic for each of the four other couples, just as it is for Allen and Rogers. First up are David Wayne and Marilyn Monroe. She's busy winning the Mrs. Mississippi beauty pageant, leaving him to be a househusband. Worse, her manager (James Gleason) wants to take her around the country to market her. Next up is Paul Douglas and Eve Arden as a couple in a bit of a rut, followed by Louis Calhern and Zsa Zsa Gabor, who are on the verge of divorce, with Gabor planning to take Calhern for all he's worth. Finally, Eddie Bracken plays a Navy man about to leave for sea whose wife (Mitzi Gaynor) is pregnant, and he's worried that the kid is going to be a bastard kid if their marriage isn't valid.

As with all episodic movies, if you don't like one story, wait a few minutes, and another one will come up. In this case, though, the stories are all pretty good. The first one, with Allen and Rogers, is probably the weakest, but even that one isn't too bad. Monroe is fun to watch as always, as are Paul Douglas and James Gleason, two character actors who never quite got as much leading male attention they both deserved. (Douglas did get a few starring roles at Fox, but mostly in B movies.) Eddie Bracken might be the best of them all, as his story is tailor made for the type of lovably insecure comedy he did in several of his other movies, most notably The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

We're Not Married is available on DVD, too.

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