Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Revolt of Mamie Stover

Jane Russell is generally remembered for her physical appearance just as much as her acting, if not more so. It's not as if she was a terrible actress, thouhg; in fact, she was more than capable. It's not the strongest movie, but Russell is most definitely not the problem wiht The Revolt of Mamie Stover, which the Fox Movie Channel is airing tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM.

Jane Russell doesn't look that trashy in the movieThe brief synopsis makes it sound as though it might be a romantic comedy with musical numbers: Russell plays Mamie Stover, a woman who goes from San Francisco to Hawaii and becomes queen of the "gentlemen's" club. In fact, the movie is pretty much a straight drama. We first see Mamie Stover in San Francisco sometime in early 1941, where some higher-up in the police department is putting her on a tramp steamer, telling her that they don't want to see her in San Francisco again. Presumably, like Joan Crawford's Sadie Hawkins in Rain, Mamie is a woman of some unspecified ill repute. The steamer is headed for Hawaii, because Mamie has a friend there who works at one of the clubs, and the friend has suggested Mamie can get a job there. With a body like that, what club owner wouldn't want Mamie working for them?

Anyhow, on board the ship, Mamie meets the only other passenger: Jim Blair (Richard Egan), a writer who lives on Oahu, and who apparently has become successful enough from his writing to have a nice big house and all the finer things in life that Mamie wishes she could have; indeed, everything Mamie has been doing has been with the aim of getting those things and going home as a success. Mamie is apparently falling in love with Jim, although Jim already has a girlfriend in the form of Annalee (Joan Leslie). Still, by the time the boat gets to Honolulu, you get the decided feeling that Mamie and Jim are going to wind up together. (Of course, being the first two names in the cast makes it kind of obvious that Jim isn't going away for good when the boat reaches Hawaii.)

Jim goes off to Annalee, who suspects something is up, while Mamie goes off to the club, which is run by Bertha Parchman (Agnes Moorehead, hair dyed blonde). Bertha takes on Mamie as one of the girls, but also lays down the tough ground rules for working at the club: no traveling to certain of the nicer parts of town; no bank accounts that would attract the attention of the taxman; no boyfriends out of work. If those conditions aren't tough enough, well there's always the "muscle", Harry Adkins (played by Michael Pate) to put the ladies back in line. Despite Harry's not looking like an enforcer, he's surprisingly slimy. Mamie promptly proceeds to break all the rules, largely so she can keep seeing Jim. She's clearly using him, but he's willing to put up with it, since he's falling in love with her. At least, there's no other logical explanation for it.

I said near the beginning that the beginning of the movie is sometime around early 1941. If you've seen enough movies, you know this means that December 7 is coming up, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor sending the US headlong into World War II. Jim goes off to enlist, while Mamie sees her opportunity. She's been much more successful than the other girls at the club; successful enough that Berth is willing to bend the club's rules for Mamie's benefit. Mamie, having earned a substantial amount of money at the club, has a great idea to earn more money: buy up properties that people wanting to leave Hawaii now that the war is on have to sell quickly, and then turning around and selling the properties to the government at a handsome profit. The folks enforcing the Production Code must have had a fit with this, yet we're still supposed to have sympathy for Mamie....

Jane Russell is more than adequate as Mamie, the woman who feels she has to be tough as nails to get what she wants out of life. She's not as good as Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, but she still does a good job. She's let down somewhat by the script. The movie never really tells us what Mamie is revolting against, unless it's just life in general. In fact, the movie is based on a book, and in the book it's made clear that Mamie had tried to become an actress but was used by the suits in Hollywood. There's something to revolt against, but something a major studio picture of the day couldn't really discuss. And then there's the ending, which makes no sense, unless you think about how the writers had to comply with the Production Code. Finally, Russell isn't really helped by Egan, who is fairly bland here. Moorehead and Pate, however, are both quite good in their supporting roles.

As far as I am aware, The Revolt of Mamie Stover is not available on DVD.

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