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Meet the Stewarts
Sony Classics on Demand satisfies your - in this case very specific itch - with this breezy but heartfelt romantic comedy from 1942. Starring a young William Holden and sassy Frances Dee, Meet the Stewarts is obviously dated in many ways, but feels oddly contemporary at the same time. Charming and often quite funny, The Stewarts offer light entertainment, a type of movie that you'd go to if you wanted to shut your brain off for a while, which I suppose people wanted to do even in those enlightened times of yesteryear.
A delightful premise - so old it feels new again, finds Holden as Mike Stewart, an average, good-hearted guy in love with Candace 'Candy' Goodwin, (Dee) heiress of a huge fortune. Mike, being a stand up fellow, refuses to marry Candy if money is involved, on the grounds that he doesn't wish her father Pierce (Grant Mitchell) to think he's a gold digger. Candy holds Mike hostage in a tree house, refusing to let him down to make it to work on time, unless he proposes to her. Pierce, tiring of all the nonsense, allows what he sees as a bad deal marriage only if Candy agrees to live solely on Mike's income. It's the stuff of situation comedy dreams.
At a slight 73 minutes, Meet the Stewarts does indeed feel like a situation comedy, one from the 1970s. Instead of calling it an anomaly, we'll assume that TV writers simply knew a good setup when they saw it, cribbing liberally from Columbia screenwriters Karen DeWolf and Elizabeth Dunn's zingy romp. That's not to say that we're looking at an episode of Three's Company or anything, as the opening scenes move at an artful and stately pace ADHD-inflicted viewers might balk at. But surely Pierce's callous dismissal of Candy, "it'll be 10 years until that girl has sense enough to qualify as a moron" signals the viewer that it's time to sit back and relax.
Mike, devoted hangdog, only occasionally gets his dander up enough to object to Candy's headstrong ways - or to spin a purported suitor around over his head WWE-style. While his wife's obstinate nature and ignorance will remind many guys in the audience of their own stereotypical marriages. Yep, it's a married couple constantly arguing about money, as Candy futilely tries to live within a budget, but the set-ups are supreme; including a hilarious dinner party, Margaret (Wicked Witch) Hamilton as a bizarre maid, and a climactic fight scene sure to leave most viewers in stitches.
As far as old-fashioned B-picture comedies from the 1940s go, Meet the Stewarts doesn't feel nearly as dated as you'd expect. Despite a leisurely pace and some less-than-politically-correct jokes, universal themes and smart humor make this movie as good a way to shut off your brain - no, quite a better way, than many modern comedies. With a raft of farcical performances still grounded in emotional reality, The Stewarts is a movie - and a married couple - you'll love to meet.
Sony Screen Classics by Request presents a remastered Meet the Stewarts on a high-quality DVD-R in a fullscreen format more-or-less accurately reproducing its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The print looks nice and sharp in black and white, with relatively deep dark tones and good detail levels. Some minor film-grain and very minor damage accompany the odd flare-up, as if the print suddenly gets a tiny bit brighter, but all of these defects are quite minor and won't affect viewing enjoyment.
Digital Mono Audio is solid as can be, betraying no significant degradation of the source. Dialog is clear and easily discernable, while the somewhat puckish score is mixed in nicely.
Included is the Original Theatrical Trailer.
This B-picture comedy from the 1940s doesn't feel nearly as dated as you'd expect. Despite a leisurely pace and some less-than-politically-correct jokes, universal themes and smart humor make this William Holden/ Frances Dee starrer as good a way to shut off your brain as you'd find with many other smart modern comedies. With a raft of farcical performances still grounded in emotional reality, The Stewarts is a movie - and a married couple - you'll find Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke