Sunday, January 20, 2019

Clearing Out My DVR: Why Can't I Like Jean Arthur?

As part of my continuing resolve to clear out all of the movie's I've recorded but resisted, I took a deep breath and jumped into 1943's "The More the Merrier" starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn.

It's a classic, right? of those films that is endlessly praised for it's comic charm. So why have I resisted it? In a word (actually 2), Jean Arthur.

Jean is so cute. Why can't I love you?
I don't why I can't warm up to this actress. I hear her voice, I see her face and I am never drawn in. Now, I realize that I am in the very tiny minority of folks who don't love Ms. Arthur, but what can I say? We all have a list of certain performers who are beloved by most but who might not thrill us so much.  In "The More The Merrier" Jean Arthur is perfectly charming, perfectly comical and kind of adorable. But I can't shake the feeling that she seems like an actress who should not be a movie star, more like the girlfriend of someone powerful who thinks his talented gal should be a star. Don't get me wrong - she is good, really good. But I just get the vibe that she would much rather be somewhere else. Maybe that's it - I don't feel that she is 100% committed.

Charles Coburn: not exactly the man who came to dinner,
more like the man who hogs the bathroom

As for the film, it is quite wonderful. Joel McCrea, as Arthur's accidental border who upends her perfectly ordered life is his easy, casually All-American sexy self. Charles Coburn, as the bureaucrat in Washington D.C. to study the WWII housing shortage is the delightful engine that propels the unlikely romance between the reluctant landlady and her border.  While the film is a fine WWII comical romance, it also is the portrait of 3 nice people who all become friends (and more).
Jean Arthur and her pals carpool to work in this adorable Fiat Topolino
And I will admit that during the travel case scene, Jean was pretty swell.
Jean gets a travel case. Her delight and simultaneous
conflict at accepting such a personal gift is my favorite scene in the film.
Of the films I've seen with Jean Arthur, this is probably the one in which I find her least objectionable. Actually, she was pretty cute if you ignore the annoying crying scenes. Nevertheless, the film won me over, so maybe there is hope for me and Jean. And who wouldn't want an accidental border like Joel McCrea?


knobgobbler said...

I dunno, Jean Arthur works for me.
She's like a quirkier Irene Dunne.
My big movie-star annoyance of the era is Judy Garland. I just don't like in her in ANYTHING except The Wizard of Oz.

FlickChick said...

It's all a very personal matter of taste, I guess. Most of us seem to have a visceral reaction to film personalities. Either you like them or you don't. Funny, but I was picturing Irene Dunne in "The More the Merrier."

Devon said...

I'm with you. Have never warmed up to Jean Arthur though she is often in the type of movies I generally like. For me it's the never sounds real. I'm always thinking in the back of my head, c'mon, use your actual voice (even though it is, from all accounts).

Vienna said...

Love Jean in one of her few dramatic films, HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT, with Charles Boyer.
As you say, it is all personal. I. Ant take to Loretta Young or Merle Oberon.

Silver Screenings said...

Although I am a Jean Arthur fan, I agree the crying scenes in this film are SO annoying. I'm not sure what the goal was there.

It takes courage to admit you don't like a treasured classic film star. Good for you for taking a public stand. :)

FlickChick said...

Devon - thank you. I agree - she's like a squeaky little mouse. Cute and first, but ultimately annoying.

FlickChick said...

Vienna, I do need to see History is Made at Night. I love Mr. Boyer, so maybe he will make Jean a little easier for me to take.

FlickChick said...

Ruth - well, I'm not feeling brave - more like a little scared I'll get yelled at! Glad we're on board about the crying. :)

Rick29 said...

She's not one of my favorite actresses either. I think she's good in some roles (e.g., MR, SMITH), but she's not an actress whose films I seek out. By the way, have you seen WALK, DON'T RUN, the remake of THE MORE THE MERRIER with Cary Grant?

FlickChick said...

Hi Rick! So very good to hear from you. I'm afraid blogging has become hit and miss for me these days. I saw Walk Don't Run many, many years ago - long before I realized that it was a remake of The More the Merrier. I really should watch it again. Thanks for the reminder.

Patrick Wahl said...

That's odd, she's one of my favorites, if I had ever thought about it I'd have figured she's just one of those people everyone likes. I think if you don't like her it isn't going to matter which movie you see her in, but if it's a matter of the roles she's had, she's good in Only Angels Have Wings, Talk of the Town, and of course Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.