Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Bride Came C.O,D (1941)

I loved It Happened One Night, which could explain why I enjoyed The Bride Came C.O.D, which is essentially a rip-off of the Oscar-winning film. While it's nowhere near as good as the film is aspires to be, it's still somewhat enjoyable.

Bette Davis plays Joan Winfield, an oil heiress who hopes to run off and marry her bandleader beau, despite knowing him for only a few days, so she hires Steve Collins (James Cagney) a down-on-his-luck pilot who is on the verge of losing his plane to his debts to fly her and her hubby-to-be to Las Vegas for a quickie marriage. Unfortunately for Joan, her father offers Steve an even better deal, instead of taking her to Las Vegas, take her to his house and he will pay him enough money to save his plane. Of course, things do not work out and they end up stranded in the desert. Eventually they are found and Steve has to think fast when a minister, Joan's boyfriend, and a cop show up hoping to see Joan married and Steve put behind bars for kidnapping.

If you read my blog post dedicated to Bette Davis, then you'll know that Bette Davis tends to over-act (which she admits to), and while you would think that she would be yukking it up all over the place in a comedy, she actually plays it straight, which really works well. She seems so earnest and serious that much more humor can be taken from it as opposed to a "Wink-Wink, I'm being funny" kind of performance that tries way too hard to get a laugh.

Sadly, I cannot say the same for James Cagney. Not having seen any of his other films (I own The Public Enemy which I need to watch someday), I can't make any really statements as to his talent, though I am well aware that he is a legend. But in this film, he really isn't given anything to do besides scheme to get his money.

Of course, this film being a copy of It Happened One Night, you'll know well ahread of time that both Steve and Joan will end up head over heels in love with eachother, the problem with this is that it's far too rushed and not really even given much screentime in the film. There is essentially one scene to suggest that there are now in love with Joan regretting living such a high-society, shallow live (though it ends with Joan become angry at Steve) and then we get a serious of attempts by Steve to stall the wedding only for Joan to end up jumping out of an airplane to get back to Steve. It doesn't seem all that believable. And it leads to an incredibly creepy scene at a hotel where Joan's father sits in the lobby, talking to Steve as Steve makes his way to his room so he can ravish his new bride. It's just weird, especially that Joan's father approves of Steve, when Joan has known him even less than she knew the bandleader.

There is also an element of missed opportuniy. Joan's father is a Rootin'-Tootin' style Texan, and we learn that Joan herself is fairly dumb (almost flunking out of high school) and that her father only struck oil a few years prior to the film. It would have been interesting to see this backstory expanded beyond a mere mention, with some of this rowdy Texas girl coming out of Joan as opposed to her being entirely spoiled and coming across entirely sheltered throughout the film. It also makes her emotional scene where she talks about how her life has been very shallow (She's supposed to be in her early 20's, despite Bette being in her 30's at the time) lose a bit of its impact, because we know that that's not really the case, since she's only had money for the last 3-5 years.

That said, the film is still fairly enjoyable, Davis and Cagney work well together, and their love-hate relationship is much more hate than love which is really what makes the film interesting. The script is also good (No surprise since it was written by the Epstein brothers, who wrote Casablanca) and has enough banter between the two stars to warrant a recommendation.

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