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Let's Do It Again
Gary Stuart is a Broadway composer married to Connie, a former singer who retired from the stage when they tied the knot. Gary gets bored from time to time, and he takes extended musical vacations, inventing trips out of town but really going on a bender through jazz clubs around New York. He's enough of a star that folks all over town lie about his whereabouts to Connie, but on his most recent jaunt, he didn't cover his tracks well enough. He comes home to find Connie has been out all night, and with one of his rivals, no less. It's a game, she wants to give Gary a taste of his own medicine, but Gary overreacts and leaves her. Divorce papers are filed despite neither wanting the split, and now the two lovers have sixty days to convince the other to take them back.
Alexander Hall (Here Comes Mr. Jordan) directed Let's Do It Again from a script by Mary Loos (niece to Anita) and Richard Sale. This music-hall adaptation is an updating of the play The Awful Truth by Arthur Richman. Leo McCarey previously directed a successful version of the play in 1937, and crazily enough, his was the third version. Yet, only Hall and his team touched the material after, and even they waited until 1953. It's hard following up a straight rendition starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.
Ray Milland and Jane Wyman, stars of The Lost Weekend, reteam and replace Grant and Dunne as Gary and Connie. She is a little more successful making the script her own than he is--or am I missing something and Milland's act has always included an element of a Cary Grant impersonation? He tends to overdo it and regularly slips into acting, but Wyman is sweet and likable and even a little sexy as the troubled wife. She also gets a couple of full-on song and dance numbers, written by Lester Lee and Ned Washington, and it doesn't hurt that the plot tends to favor the Connie character and mostly root for her to come out on top. She strikes up a romance with an eager Alaskan miner (Aldo Ray), and so Gary spends the rest of the film playing catch-up. Ray is eager, but his part is way overwritten. If there is a backwoods, dig-a-hole saying this movie doesn't have coming out of his mouth, I haven't heard it.
Other notable members of the supporting cast include Tom Helmore as Gary's effete competitor, and Valerie Bettis, who performs a saucy burlesque number detailing the battle of the sexes. The musical choreography isn't much to crow about, it's all very stagey, all the songs appear within the scene, as opposed to being extensions of them. (Meaning, the characters are performing the tunes for real rather than being abstract expressions of inner thought.) Most of Hall's direction, to be honest, is fairly perfunctory. The script sizzles more than the presentation, and so while the film doesn't drag too much, it does lack a certain zazz. That said, the art direction is colorful, and the dresses Jean Louis (From Here to Eternity) drapes over Wyman and Bettis are to die for, meaning that the props crew does their level best to give us something to look at even when the director does not.
When it comes down to it, Let's Do It Again pales in comparison to its predecessor, and perhaps may not be all that interesting as anything more than a remake of McCarey's more famous movie. It's hard to say, I can't erase my knowledge of The Awful Truth. I do know that I enjoyed Let's Do It Again enough to recommend it to fans of Truth, and really, anyone who is looking for a pleasurable older film to pass the time during a night in.
Let's Do It Again is released as part of the Columbia movies-on-demand series, manufacturing discs of lesser-known titles to order. The full frame image isn't fully restored like a more high-end disc, but the materials used were decent enough. The colors look nice, and there is only a little surface damage. Resolution varies, with a general softness to the picture that sometimes goes super fuzzy, but only on a couple of occasions.
The English soundtrack is presented in stereo and sounds okay, there are no noticeable glitches. My one complaint is that the master volume was low. I had to crank my speakers to get a comfortable listening level.
The original trailer.
Recommended. An odd rescue from the obscure bins, 1953's Let's Do It Again is a likable remake of The Awful Truth, taking Arthur Richman's original play and updating it as a showbiz musical. Jane Wyman and Ray Milland star as the couple dueling over divorce papers, scheming to make the other jealous so he or she will give in and get back together with her or him. The former Mrs. Ronald Reagan outshines her co-star, but then the script gives her the most would-be suitors and seems to suggest she's whom we should be rooting for anyway. The direction by Alexander Hall is tepid, but the presentation is colorful. Enjoyable romantic fluff.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.