Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Girls' Day

Today is Girls' Day in Japan, which would be a good time to blog about a movie I've only mentioned in passing in the past: Too Many Girls.

Lucille Ball stars as Connie, the daughter of a wealthy man. She's in love with a writer with the ridiculous name of Beverly Waverly, a man of whom her father most definitely does not approve. How to keep her from seeing Waverly? Well, it seems as though the problem might be solved when she decides to go to her father's old alma mater, Pottawatomie College out in New Mexico. It's a "cow college" that just happens to have a male-female ratio of 1:10. Still, Daddy fears for his rebellious daughter's safety (or, more accurately, he doesn't trust her), so he convinces college jock Clint (Richard Carlson) to transfer to Pottawatomie, and serve as Connie's "bodyguard" unbeknownst to her. It's not too difficult an ask, since Clint has fallen in love with Connie himself.

However, he also gets a few more unexpected colleagues. When he met Connie's father, he was actually waiting to convince Argentine running back Manuelito (Desi Arnaz) to play football for his school. Two jocks from other schools: Jojo (Eddie Bracken) and Al (Hal LeRoy) had caught wind of this, and followed Manuelito. They, too wind up being smitten with Connie, and agree to become her "bodyguards" and transfer to Pottawatomie as well.

It's here that the action really starts getting wacky. Pottawatomie has a football team that's pretty bad (it's the lack of men on campus), and when it's found out that the four new students can play football, they kind of have to join the team, even though it will make their actual job more difficult. That, and they all fall in love, with Ann Miller, Frances Langford, and Libby Bennett. And when Connie finds out that the four guys have been hired by her father, she decides to quit Pottawatomie, which will force them to leave as well....

Too Many Girls has no grounding in any reality that I can think of. I don't think I ever knew a college like this. Nor was college football ever been this way. The closest I got to New Mexico was the Four Corners, but Too Many Girls isn't like any other cinematic rendering of New Mexico I can think of. That having been said, the movie is a riot, with Eddie Bracken getting a bunch of great lines, notably when he tells Hal Le Roy, "Get your own ten girls!", or after he catches Carlson singing the song "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" to Ball. Bracken goes back to the other two guys to tell them what he saw, and asks Desi to hold his hand while he sings the song, in order to get the atmosphere right! Then there's Desi Arnaz trying to guess what sort of perfume Ann Miller is wearing. And, of course Miller gets to dance, which is another highlight of the movie. The other dance highlight is the finale, which has the student body celebrate after winning a big game by... doing a conga line across the campus! (I suppose it beats storming the field.) Yes, it's silly stuff. But it's really fun silly stuff.

The movie has the songs of Rogers and Hart, and is one of the few directed by George Abbott. Abbott was better known for his work on Broadway, and indeed, this is an adaptation of a Broadway play. Abbott went on to live an extremely long life, getting trotted out once a year for the Tony Awards for the sole purpose that Broadway could show how it was honoring its past simply by having some old guy walk out and wave to the audience. He died in 1995 at the ripe old age of 107.

Too Many Girls has been released to DVD, as part of a box set containing all three of the movies that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made together. This was actually the movie in which they first met.

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