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EASY LIVING (director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriters: story Education of the Heart by Irwin Shaw/Vera Caspary/Charles Schnee; cinematographer: Harry J. Wild; editor: Frederic Knudtson; music: Roy Webb; cast: Victor Mature (Pete Wilson), Lucille Ball (Anne, Lenahan’s Secretary), Lizabeth Scott (Liza ‘Lize’ Wilson), Sonny Tufts (Tim ‘Pappy’ McCarr), Lloyd Nolan (Lenahan), Paul Stewart (Dave Argus), Jack Paar (Scoop Spooner), Jeff Donnell (Penny McCarr), Michael St. Angel (Gilbert Vollmer), Jim Backus (Dr. Franklin), Art Baker (Howard Vollmer), Everett Glass (Virgil Ryan), William ‘Bill’ Phillips (Ozzie, the Trainer); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Sparks; RKO; 1949)
“This would-be intelligent soap opera tale about the early days of pro football never reaches a boil but does provide some insights into an aging star’s mindset about the game.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Based on an Irwin Shaw novel Education of the Heart, this would-be intelligent soap opera tale about the early days of pro football never reaches a boil but does provide some insights into an aging star’s mindset about the game, how he handles his domestic crisis and how he deals with the spotlight. Vera Caspary and Charles Schnee turn in a promising script that never scores too many points and Jacques Tourneur helms it, as best as he could, but unfortunately the studio interfered and compromised the script by soft-pedaling the question if the star’s ruthlessly ambitious wife screws her way to the top of her business line as a designer. As a result, the tension seemed manufactured rather than realized.

Pete Wilson (Victor Mature) is the star quarterback of the New York Chiefs and the highest paid athlete in the game, who is in his third year and seemingly has everything he wants–including being married to a beautiful wife Liza (Lizabeth Scott) he’s madly in love with. He’s popular through the efforts of publicists, who tag him as King Football. But his glory days come crushing down when he sees a private doctor (Jim Backus) about his recent dizzy spells and learns he has a serious heart problem that could be fatal if he continues playing football. Pete is tormented because he has no idea what he can do if he doesn’t play football but can’t communicate this with his self-absorbed bitchy wife, who is only interested in furthering her career as an interior designer even though she has little talent. The way out for Pete is getting a coaching job at the small Midwestern college where he played, as his former coach (Everett Glass) is retiring after 35 years. But the coach selects his best friend and pro teammate Tim ‘Pappy’ McCarr (Sonny Tufts), only a second-rate player, and offers Pete the post of assistant coach–a blow to his big ego.

Pete plays through the season, but dogs it as he fears injury. Liza gets involved with an older man (Art Baker) who helps her career and the married couple become estranged. Meanwhile the team secretary and widowed daughter-in-law of the owner, Anne (Lucille Ball), has a crush on Pete and when she catches him drunk and feeling sorry for himself, he tells her his personal business. The hard-nosed coach and team owner Lenahan (Lloyd Nolan) wants to win the last game of the season because it means the playoffs and big money, and makes Pete promise to give it all for the team. But Pete, at last, has a reality check, and tells the coach why he can’t play. When Liza returns to watch the game and tells Pete she’ll follow him anywhere, he slaps her around a few times and makes sure the bitch understands who’s top dog.

Easy Living ended on too easy of a note, sugarcoating all the sour moments with a Hollywood happy ending.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”