Monday, July 24, 2017

Movie review - "The First Traveling Saleslady" (1956) **

Sometimes the wind changes and what would've worked a few years ago doesn't anymore... This is an amiable comedy about a female salesperson flogging corsets out west, which probably would've passed muster with the public in the heyday of its star Ginger Rogers. But that time had passed - with TV drawing audiences and censorship relaxations making these stories seem old fashioned.

It doesn't quite work. I like Rogers and director Arthur Lubin, it has colour and movement. But it never quite works. It lacks the discipline and pace of say Lubin's films at Universal in the 1940s; it was part of a revived RKO and maybe lacks the polish that would have come from a studio used to more regular production.

I couldn't tell the characters played by Rogers and Carol Channing apart. Both are blonde and wacky; Channing is a bit more keen on guys maybe. Channing has this wide eyed character-in-a-Tim Burton-movie feel to her performing.

The film is full of frustrating inconsistencies. Channing sings one song early on and I thought it was going to be a musical - but it's the only song. It's a bit feminist, about women trying to make it in a man's world (selling barbed wire) but in the end Rogers has to be saved by Barry Nelson. The film sets up a love triangle between Rogers, Nelson and James Arness, then throws in another guy keen on Rogers, played by David Brian. They set up a love story between Channing and a young Clint Eastwood and hardly give it any running time. The story was confusing. James Arness' antagonist - kicking the girls out of town threatening them with hanging - had horrible rapey undertones that were not fun.

It's not dreadful. It just doesn't come together.

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