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Movie Reviews the Talk of the Town

The Talk of the Town (1942) Starring Cary Grant, Ronald Colman, Jean Arthur, Edgar Buchanan, Glenda Farrell, Charles Dingle, Leonid Kinskey, Lloyd Bridges, Rex Ingram, Emma Quinn, Tom Tyler, Don Beddoe.

Directed by George Stevens.

Running time: 118 minutes.

Rating: G

“My mother always warned me against stubborn women”

Small town outcast Leopold Dilg (Grant) is framed for arson and sent to prison. He escapes and hides out in his friend Nora’s (Arthur) attic. She agrees to let him stay providing he can evade being detected by her lodger Michael Lightcap (Colman), a law professor and supreme court nominee there renting a room to write his book.

Dilg pretends to be the caretaker and meets Lightcap. They argue about whether the American justice system works and though they cannot come to an agreement on that they do become fast friends.

However when Dilg is finally exposed as a fugitive and flees the police again the question becomes how far Lightcap’s friendship and principles extend. Moreover how far will Nora’s extend? Since both Dilg and Lightcap are each in love with Nora whom will she choose?

It took five years in Hollywood, appearing in mostly forgettable films under contract to Paramount Pictures before Grant would perfect the smooth, elegant persona that would establish him as Hollywood’s premiere leading man. That was a persona so enduring that it persisted in the public consciousness throughout rumours of an ambiguous sexuality, four messy divorces and a very public declaration of drug use. Grant’s reticence allowed the speculation to persist but the image onscreen was, and is, so compelling it is difficult to visually tie the real life problems of the man to his legend. The viewer can see Grant just entering his prime in this role doing one of his very best and most successful films.

This thoroughly appealing and masterfully crafted film is an example of Hollywood’s very best in top flight. It is slick and smooth with solid production values, a tight script and leads legendary for their efficiency in winning over audiences and selling a narrative through characterisation. These elements serve to help buttress the somewhat implausible ending.

Cary Grant was notorious for his preference for working with people he had already worked with before. Here he worked with both George Stevens whom he had worked with in Gunga Din and Jean Arthur whom he had worked with in Only Angels Have Wings.

Notes:

Some of the sentiments expressed in this film were deemed to be anti-capitalist in far right wing quarters and led to Cary Grant’s little known in-camera meeting with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.

Nominated for six Academy Awards.