Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Live, Love, and Learn

Robert Montgomery did a lot of breezy comedies and other light programmers in his 1930s days at MGM. So some of them get lost in the shuffle because they're like some of the others. A good example of this is Live, Love, and Learn.

Montgomery plays Bob Graham, a starving artist who at the start of the movie is somehwere out in the country, set up next to a stone wall and painting a landscape. Suddenly, a whole bunch of horsemen come jumping over the wall, obviously on a fox hunt, forcing Bob to keep ducking his head so that he doesn't get hit by any of the horses. The last person to jump over the wall is Julie Stoddard (Rosalind Russell), who doesn't make it, getting thrown from her horse and eventually going right through Bob's canvas, understandably ticking Bob off.

So what does Bob do? In the very next scene, we see him and Julie at a justice of the peace getting married! Bob keeps acting as though he's not really going to go through with it, but of course he does, and almost immediately after the wedding ceremony the two are on their way back to Bob's walk-up apartment in the starving artist part of town; Julie seemingly happy with all of this because she doesn't necessarily want the family money.

Not long after getting to the apartment, the couple is interrupted by Oscar (Robert Benchley), a thoroughly obnoxious drunk which probably wasn't that much of a stretch for Benchley to be playing. Oscar apparently kinda-sorta lived in the apartment with Bob or some such, as Bob seems to be quite used to Oscar, and Julie for whatever reason doesn't mind this either. But there's the question of how they're going to pay the bills.

Bob goes out to paint in the park, and a couple of Navy guys don't care for Bob's painting. There are some guys from the Army, however, who like it, and this sets off a fight among the servicemen that makes the front page of the newspapers and brings a bunch of them to Bob's apartment. Not that he wants to talk to any of them, especially once they start lying and passing themselves off as art dealers. Among them is Mr. Bawltitude (Monty Woolley), who actually does own an art gallery but is treated horribly by Bob, Julie, and Oscar because they understandably think he's yet another journalist in disguise.

When they discover that Bawltitude really does on a gallery and can set up a showing for Bob, it opens doors for him that Julie doesn't particularly care to have opened. Bob is able to make enough money to support Julie and not be a starving artist any longer, but Julie thinks that this is going to cause Bob to lose what he had in his character that made him so much fun to be with in the first place.

To me there were a lot of standard tropes in Live, Love, and Learn, and the way they were put together didn't really gel all that well. It's even less understandable why these two got married than in other screwball comedies, for starters. Oscar is a really irritating character and why Julie is OK with him makes no sense. And half the time it tries to be too dramatic, with it never being funny enough when it's trying to be a comedy.

Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell both made much better stuff than this. But it's available on a Robert Montgomery box set if you want it.

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