Saturday, February 24, 2024

Dangerously Slight

A movie that I had surprisingly not seen despite it being part of the "Turner Library" of movies that for years made up the bulk of TCM's programming is Slightly Dangerous. So the last time that it showed up on TCM, I decided I'd record it in order to be able to watch it and then do a review here.

After the credits, a voiceover tells us about the town of Hotchkiss Falls, a made-up place supposedly in the mid-Hudson valley, which wouldn't be too far from where I am if it actually existed. But the towns here, places like Kingston and Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, are the same sort of boring places that the voiceover man tells us Hotchkiss Falls is. Anyhow, one of the residents of Hotchkiss Falls is Peggy Evans (Lana Turner), who typifies how boring the town is. She works at the soda counter of the local five-and-dime, and is getting a bonus for showing up on time for 1,000 consecutive shifts. Big deal, she thinks.

The place is so boring, that she gets into a debate with one of her co-workers about whether she could do her job blindfolded. A patron comes up, orders a sundae, and sure enough Peggy is able to fulfill the order properly while blindfolded. But as she was doing it, the store's new manager, Bob Stuart (Robert Young), walks in. Seeing a professional no-no, he calls Peggy into the office. It leads to an exchange in which Peggy, realizing how boring Hotchkiss Falls is, says she'll be Peggy Evans until the day she dies.

That gives her an idea as she thinks that she'll be Peggy Evans until the day Peggy Evans dies. With that in mind, she writes a note that could be construed as a suicide note, and goes running off to the big city, not telling a soul where she's gone. In New York, she starts thinking about getting a complete makeover, not just hair and clothes, but a new name as well. But she can't decide on what an appropriate new name would be.

Peggy decides to go to one of the newspapers to take out a classified ad that would presumably be like the billboard Gladys Glover rents in It Should Happen to You. But a sign painter is working over the evidence, and knocks down his paint bucket, hitting Peggy and temporarily knocking her unconscious. Having just undergone a makeover, she doesn't have any ID in her new pocketbook and no identifying marks on her new outfit. And when she comes to, she decides this would be a perfect opportunity to pretend to have a case of amnesia.

Editor Durstin (Eugene Pallette) decides to take Peggy's picture and put it in the papers to see if anybody can recognize her. Bob sees the story, and thinks he recognizes Peggy. But it's not an absolute, since part of the makeover involved getting her hair dyed blonde. And at the newspaper offices, we see that Bob isn't the only person who thinks he recognizes the mystery woman, although we know the rest of them are wrong.

Meanwhile, Peggy has been devious, looking through old newspapers at the library for a missing persons case that might involve someone who would now be close to her age. Eventually, she finds a Carol Burden who was supposedly kidnapped as a very young girl. Carol had a nurse named Baba (Dame May Whitty), so Peggy says she can remember the word "baba". Durstin has his researcher go through the files and he naturally finds the Burden case, with Caro's father Cornelius (Walter Brennan) being a very wealthy man.

However, they've already had to deal with other frauds claiming to be Carol Burden, so they're going to put Peggy-claiming-to-be-Carol through her paces to expose the fraud and prosecute to the full extent of the law. And of course Bob Stuart is waiting in the wings to recognize Peggy as well.

Slightly Dangerous is the sort of escapist light comedy that you can understand why audiences in 1943 when it was released would love. With a war raging in the real world, and Lana Turner being so glamorous, it's obviously just what the doctor ordered. And Lana Turner shows herself to be pretty adept at comedy as well. Somewhat more surprising is that Walter Brennan and Dame May Whitty also prove to do well in this sort of comedy. Not that they're bad actors, but Slightly Dangerous is rather more different from what they normally did.

If you want to escape with a slightly different comedy, don't hesitate to try Slightly Dangerous.

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