Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Movie for the heck of it: Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven

This little piece of cinematic weirdness was one of the first things I discovered on the Internet Archive. The story is kind of disjointed, as it seems like it's two or three stories in succession. It's not that it's hard to follow; more that any of them could have been expanded into a B-flick of its own. First, Texas reporter Eddie Tayloe (Guy Madison) inherits a bunch of money and heads off to New York to produce his play. (Hasn't every newspaper drudge written something he thinks he can sell for his big break?) Along the way he meets Perry (odd name, pretty girl), played by the delightful Diana Lynn, who is convinced he's a bank-robbing fugitive. Or rather, pretends she's convinced and won't be disabused of the notion, which makes the viewer chuckle at the poor guy's attempts to make her believe he's not.

On their arrival in New York, the whole story takes a right-angle turn. She drops the mistaken-identity thing, mostly, and the two of them maintain a friendship that perpetually teeters on the edge of romance. (I was kind of reminded of When Harry Met Sally with the principals from Houseguest.) Meanwhile, the cast becomes a collection of oddball characters that any sitcom would kill for, as he rents a room from three crusty old women and she adopts an elderly pickpocket as her mother. There's a "riding academy" where none of the mounts are actually alive, a hotel with no phones (to force guests to make calls in the bar) and a trip to Coney Island that's not quite a date and not quite not. Madison and Lynn play passably off each other, he good hearted and stodgy and she maddeningly flighty and charming. It's all silliness delivered with a mostly straight face.

The story (or stories) is sweet, but what makes this film fun is playing "spot the character actor." Florence Bates, Lionel Stander, Moyna MacGill (Angela Lansbury's mother, in a rare credited role), Margaret Hamilton, Irene Ryan, William Frawley and Roscoe Karns. Keep an eye peeled at the beginning for a copy boy at the newspaper - that's Audie Murphy, in his first (albeit brief) screen role.

A side question for Texans: the story starts at a Dallas newspaper, where Eddie is the entire Fort Worth bureau. Even so, he's more bored than the Maytag man. Was Fort Worth really that much of a podunk in 1948? (Speaking of the Maytag repairman, look for an uncredited Jesse White as the bar patron that starts and ends the film.)

Here to make your day a little more surreal is Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven:

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