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March 2011

Tom, Dick And Harry

cast: Ginger Rogers, George Murphy, Burgess Meredith, Alan Marshals and Phil Silvers

director: Garson Kanin

85 minutes (PG) 1941
Odeon DVD Region 2

RATING: 9/10
review by Max Cairnduff

Tom, Dick And Harry

I'm generally not a fan of romantic comedies. That's because most of them are a lot heavier on the romance than they are on the comedy. With Ginger Rogers, though, it's hard to go wrong and, in Tom, Dick And Harry, she's on top form. It doesn't hurt either that director Garson Kanin doesn't once forget to keep it fast and funny.

Janie is a telephone operator and a romantic. She's been dating car salesman Tom for some time now and things are going swell. One night after a date, Tom proposes and after initially asking for some time to think it over Janie accepts. Janie, though, is full of dreams and while Tom's a great guy and very much the all-American provider he's more inclined to punch her affectionately on the shoulder than to ravish her with kisses. The night he proposes she dreams of what married life with him would be like. It's not an unappetising prospect but it's not everything she's looking for either.

What Janie dreams of is marrying a millionaire. Over the next few days she gets her chance as fun-loving but unambitious car mechanic Harry (Burgess Meredith) and society millionaire Dick (Alan Marshall) each meet her, fall in love and propose. Soon she finds herself engaged to all three... Okay, it's unlikely. It doesn't matter though because it's delightful. After every proposal Janie has a dream sequence of life with that suitor and each dream is funny and absurd. They culminate in a final dream of what life would be like if she could just marry all three - a prospect that Janie can't quite accept but that she doesn't look entirely displeased with either.

As you'd expect it's a film filled with great dialogue and neatly judged comic-timing. Ginger Rogers has never been more appealing and invests her character with a surprising amount of implied sexuality. Phil Silvers pops up in a cameo role as an obnoxious ice cream seller trying to sell to lovers parked up at a make-out spot and while his part isn't big it's definitely memorable.

Alan Marshall is a little bland as millionaire Dick, but George Murphy is tremendous as good guy Tom, and Burgess Meredith is as good as ever. The scene where Tom tries to sell Harry a car not knowing that Harry is his rival in love is priceless - particularly when he convinces Harry to go out with him for a test drive and suggests Harry bring his girlfriend along. The remainder of the cast are just as solid and even the small performances here are worth watching (particularly Janie's sister and her colleague at the telephone exchange).

If I had to criticise I'd note that Janie is surprisingly mercenary from a modern perspective (or even a period one), but she's so charming it's hard not to forgive. Janie's not a career girl of the sort seen in films such as His Girl Friday and her prospects in life depend almost entirely on what kind of man she manages to marry. There's a little social comment there, but not so much that it gets in the way of the fun. In case the 9 out of 10 score and the review above didn't make it clear, I loved this film. If you've any taste for this sort of movie at all it's a must-see.



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