HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GAL?(director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: Joseph Hoffman/from the novel by Eleanor H. Porter; cinematographer: Clifford Stine; editor: Russell F. Schoengarth; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Piper Laurie (Millicent Blaisdell), Rock Hudson (Dan Stebbins), Charles Coburn (Samuel Fulton/John Smith), Gigi Perreau (Roberta Blaisdell), Lynn Bari (Harriet Blaisdell), Larry Gates (Charles Blaisdell), William Reynolds (Howard Blaisdell), Skip Homeier (Carl Pennock), Paul Harvey (Judge Wilkins), Frank Ferguson (Edward Norton), Forrest Lewis (Martin Quinn), Gloria Holden (Mrs. Pennock); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ted Richmond; Universal-International; 1952)
“As good as it gets when it comes to “feel-good” sitcom comedies.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
As good as it gets when it comes to “feel-good” sitcom comedies. It’s the most lighthearted film that master of the melodrama Douglas Sirk (“All That Heaven Allows”/”A Scandal in Paris”/”Imitation of Life”) has ever directed. It aims to show in a comical way that money is the root of all evil, or least money alone cannot make one happy. Set in the “flapper” era of the twenties, it delights in its old-fashioned song and dance numbers and its slapstick jokes. James Dean makes his film debut in a short bit as a jitterbugging teenage dancer at the local ice cream parlor. It’s based on the story by Eleanor H. Porter and solidly penned by Joseph Hoffman.
One of the wealthiest men in America, the elderly, curmudgeon, skinflint, sickly bachelor Samuel Fulton (Charles Coburn) is dictating his will to his lawyer Edward Norton (Frank Ferguson) in his Tarrytown, New York, mansion in the late 1920s, and tells of leaving his entire fortune to strangers. The eccentric intends to leave his fortune when he dies and $100,000 while still alive to the struggling Blaisdell family of the fictional town of Hilverton, Vermont, because he still loves the recently deceased woman who spurned his love in his youth and married a poor bookkeeper. Because of that rejection he ventured to Alaska to strike gold and then to Texas to strike oil, and credits her decision for making him aspire to become a multi-millionaire. The old geezer is anxious to see what family life would have been like if he married her and under his lawyer’s suggestion he treks to rural Vermont to check out how the family will handle their new wealth. His old flame’s only daughter Harriet (Lynn Bari) is someone not happy with her lot in life and yearns to be wealthy; she married the poor regular guy local owner of a drugstore Charles (Larry Gates) and they have a cute young bouncy school-aged daughter Roberta (Gigi Perreau), a twenty-year possible college student daughter Millicent (Piper Laurie) and their oldest discontented college student son Howard (William Reynolds).
Fulton tricks the family into renting him a room as a boarder in their attic under the name of John Smith and to make sure he stays, he accepts a job as a soda jerk in the old man’s drug store. Also working there is poor nice boy Dan (Rock Hudson), who is dating Millicent. But her mom wants her to go out with the richest boy in town, the obnoxious showoff Carl Pennock (Skip Homeier). He’s someone Millicent doesn’t like but mom insists she go out with him because he’s rich and of a better social class.
Smith endears himself to the family as a quaint old character they call Gramps. He then has his lawyer lay the $100,000 check on them from an anonymous source, and is startled to find that mom instantly turns into a rich snob and forces hubby to sell the drugstore and instead to dabble in risky stocks and moves to the biggest house in town to associate with the town swells. But the nouveau riche family lose both their happiness and new found wealth in record time, and it’s Smith who becomes their meddling guardian angel trying to bring Dan and Millicent back together again, saving Howard from a bad gambling debt and giving Harriet a chance to see that she was wrong about wealth being the most important thing in the world to have.
The life lessons were hardly interesting, but Coburn was perfect as the grumpy old rich man pretending to be a poor artist, while Gigi Perreau and her mongrel dog stole every scene they were in. The gentle film abounds in charm and nostalgia, and though one of Sirk’s lesser films it’s thoroughly enjoyable.
REVIEWED ON 3/9/2007 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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