Talkie of the Week: A Likely Story
USA 1947, 80 minutes, black & white, RKO Radio Pictures. Director: H.C. Potter, Screenplay: Bess Taffel and Alexander Kenedi. Cast: Barbara Hale, Bill Williams, Sam Levene, Lanny Rees, Dan Tobin, Nestor Paiva, Max Willenz, Henry Kulky, Robin Raymond, Mary Young
Plot summary: Bill Baker believes he suffers from a fatal heart disease and considers taking his life after his arrival in New York. Vicki North, an aspiring young painter, saves him and takes it upon her to prove that life’s worth living after all.
Review: A Likely Story was the first movie that actively featured Bill Williams and his newlywed wife Barbara Hale as the leading stars of an RKO movie. They had already appeared in a film together, but Bill Williams’ character died too quick a death to actually get much of a mention. The film was West of Pecos and was later referred to as the set Barbara and Bill fell in love on while the movie was shot in 1944. Gossip column invention or not, their much covered romance finally led to their wedding vows in 1946 and, as a side effect, boosted the marketing for their first conjoint feature film.
In 1947, the idea of teaming up real life couples to spark on screen was still relatively fresh, but it gained more and more momentum as the audience warmed up to the concept. Supported by home stories and articles in magazines for movie fans and housewives, an actual couple had the potential to add romantic value to yet another silver screen love story. And as my favorite example, Bill Williams and Barbara Hale sure knew how to use the sparkle in their eyes to enhance an entertaining yet not outstanding storyline.
A Likely Story is a tale of a hypochondriac who falls in love with an artist who has come to New York to pursue her dream and become a famous painter. Although her art is not appreciated, Vicki tries hard to sell her work while Bill is slowly recovering from the idea of taking his own life. Her belief that courage and imagination can make a difference in anyone’s life actually turns Bill’s around and then her own when she also falls in love with him.
Although the topic may suggest a deep, dark drama or a cheesy love story, A Likely Story is an upbeat film with screwball elements and amusing female hysterics common in 1940s cinema. Barbara Hale did what she did best (before her parts required more depth): she turned her character into a lovable young woman who is funny, practical and smart. Bill Williams met her on screen personality with congeniality and wit, topped off by his eye candy shape. While Barbara Hale’s shapely legs and beautiful face were praised by a male audience (the poster suggests it), her husband’s attributes were definitely acclaimed in equal measure by the ladies. And still are if you allow me to admit.
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