One Touch of Venus

Talkie of the Week: One Touch of Venus

USA 1948, 82 minutes, black & white, Universal Pictures. Director: William A. Seiter, Written by Harry Kurnitz  & Frank Tashlin, Based on the novel The Tinted Venus by F. Anstey. Cast: Ava Gardner, Robert Walker, Dick Haymes, Eve Arden, Tom Conway, Olga San Juan, James Flavin, Sara Allgood

Plot summary: Eddie Hatch locks lips with a Venus statue and thus awakens the real goddess who stirs up his life.

Review: Originally purchased by Mary Pickford to bring the musical version of F. Anstey’s novel The Tinted Venus to the screen in technicolor for United Artists, the project did not come to life until Lester Cowan secured the rights for Universal in 1947. He hired William A. Seiter to direct a black and white version of the story with Robert Walker, Ava Gardner and Dick Haymes as leading actors. The diverting plot worked beautifully without the musical numbers, first and foremost due to its excellent cast. Ava Gardner was a fantastic choice for Venus, the goddess of love, who comes to life through Robert Walker’s kiss. Together, they made for a handsome couple who knew how to tackle the comedic ups and downs of a lightweight story. They were supported by Tom Conway and Eve Arden who added maturity to One Touch of Venus beyond the lines they were given. As a secretary who’s secretly in love with her boss, Eve Arden played an endearing stereotype whose best moments, like Ava Gardner, are saved for the end of the film.

All in all, the movie is a romantic comedy for three couples who give their best at entertaining their audience. Dick Haymes and Olga San Juan are as cute a pair as Ava Gardner and Robert Walker and every bit as hilarious as RKO’s ex-Falcon Tom Conway and Our Miss Brooks‘ Eve Arden. Today, the actress would have turned 104 and One Touch of Venus is a great treat for anyone who’s interested in seeing some of her big screen work. Lighthearted and funny, the comedy will also lift you up and prepare you for warmer weather – it’s every bit as delightful and silly as spring fever season.

Available on DVD.

PS: Review also published on MovieFanFare.

What’s My Line?

TV classics: What’s My Line?

USA 1950-67, 17 seasons,  876 episodes, 25 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Presented by John Charles Daly. Panelists: Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Louis Untermeyer, Hal Block, Steve Allen, Fred Allen, Mystery celebrity guests: Julie Andrews, Eve Arden, Desi Arnaz, Fred Astaire, Lauren Bacall, Lucille Ball, Candice Bergen, Polly Bergen, Carol Burnett, James Cagney, Claudette Colbert, Sean Connery, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Errol Flynn, Joan Fontaine, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, James Garner, Bob Hope, Grace Kelley, Gene Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Hedy Lamarr, Angela Lansbury, Jack Lemmon, Sophia Loren, Myrna Loy, Allen Ludden, Paul Newman, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Jane Russell, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Ann Sothern, Jimmy Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Tierney, Lana Turner, Robert Wagner, Betty White, Joanne Woodward, Jane Wyman, Robert Young et al.

Game summary: Four panelists are trying to guess the occupation of their guests and the identity of the mystery celebrity of the week.

Review: What’s My Line? was one of the longest running and most popular game shows on American TV. Launched as early as in 1950, the show was broadcast weekly on CBS for seventeen successful seasons until it was continued on a daily basis in syndication. Transferred to radio as well as to audiences worldwide, the format was a big success and didn’t go off the air until 1975. In its history, What’s My Line? featured a lot of famous mystery celebrity guests such as Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Myrna Loy, Elizabeth Taylor or Robert Young, some of whom appeared more than once.

With its easy format, the game show was an entertaining half hour of guessing what the weekly guests were doing for a living, for the panelists as much as for the TV audience. Broadcast live in the beginning, What’s My Line? lived of the chemistry between its regular panelists and their host John Charles Daly. Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf stayed with the show the longest while the fourth spot on the panel was usually given to a famous incoming guest. The thrill of the show lay in the variety of professions the panelists had to guess by asking funny as well as witty “yes-and-no only” questions. The mystery celebrity guest was always the cherry on top of each episode when the blindfolded panel of four queried its way to revealing who was sitting next to their host.

Like so many of the classic game shows, What’s My Line? is a lot of fun to watch these days. The panelists, guests and celebrities are entertaining and hilarious at times. The program is innocent for today’s standards, classy and polite. The game is harmless and relaxing, a perfect show to watch at the end of a hectic day.

Selected clips available on youtube (see links above).