Saturday, August 8, 2009

Worse than The Howards of Virginia?

Cary Grant is the star for TCM's Summer Under the Stars all day and night on Sunday, August 9, and the day kicks off with what might be his worst movie: Once Upon a Time, at 6:00 AM ET.

The plot involves Grant as a slightly shady promoter who needs a new act to help him get out of a $100,000 debt. Lucky for him, he meets a young orphan boy who's got just the act for him: a caterpillar that dances to the tune "Yes Sir, That's My Baby". Grant doesn't see a poor orphan; he sees dollar signs, and damn the little kid. Along the way, Grant meets the kid's adult sister, who's been raising him; in one of the older Hollywood plot "twists", Grant falls in love with her, and she with him -- until she learns his darker nature.

Once Upon a Time is a train wreck on so many levels. It's got an unappealing Cary Grant -- not the evil Grant from most of Suspicion, mind you, but something much worse, a nondescript unappealingness. The movie is also filled with stale plot devices: the orphan; the adult sibling raising the kid; the love story with the orphan bring the two people together; and Grant's right-hand man (played here by James Gleason). It's also got a lousy ending which should be obvious: the first time I saw the movie, I found myself thinking, "Don't they know [what happens in the ending, which I won't give away]?"

So why am I recommending Once Upon a Time? Well, it's got Cary Grant, and James Gleason. Not only that, but a lot of times, train wrecks can be fascinating to watch.

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