Thursday, May 26, 2011

Esther Williams without the bathing suit

You know you want to imagine her without the bathing suitFor this last night of Esther Williams' turn as TCM's Star of the Month, TCM is showing some of the movies Williams made in which she doesn't have any elaborate musical numbers in the water. This includes one later role; two early movies with supporting roles; and one movie in which she gets second billing just before she started making all those water movies: The Hoodlum Saint, airing overnight at 2:00 AM ET. It's a strange movie in a whole lot of ways, not least for Williams' part in it. But more on that later.

The movie was made in 1946, just after the end of World War II, but the movie is about a veteran returning from World War I, a journalist named Terry O'Neill (played by a quinquagenarian William Powell). In theory, soldiers were supposed to get their old jobs back, but many of them wanted new horizons, and the home front had changed too, and O'Neill finds it difficult to get work. This is until he meets socialite Kay Lorrison (Williams) at a wedding, and she helps him get a job at another newspaper. O'Neill works on exposés of the world of high finance, but to be honest, he was always more comfortable working the crime beat, and when he sees the financiers making money hand over fist, he figures he can too.

O'Neill wants to look respectable, though, and when he's apparently been helped by the intercession of one "St. Dismas", the patron saint of thieves, he decides to build a shrine to them and a charity, which enables him to mix in both the high-class world, and the world of crime and dark nightclubs, which is where he meets singer Dusty Millard (Angela Lansbury). She loves him, but he's not too sure. O'Neill continues to make money, but you know the crash of October 1929 is coming up....

The Hoodlum Saint is one of those movies I watched once years ago, found a bit odd and not quite up to snuff, and haven't stopped to watch any of the other times since that TCM has shown it. For all its odd casting and dated feel, it's well worth at least one viewing. It doesn't seem to be available on DVD, not even from the Warner Archive Collection.

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