(director: Edwin L. Marin; screenwriters: story by Katherine Brush/Elaine Ryan/Anne Morrison Chapin/Noel Langley; cinematographers: Charles Lawton Jr./Lester White; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Dr. William Axt; cast: Judy Garland (“Pinkie” Wingate), Freddie Bartholomew (Herbert “Buzz” Mitchell), Mary Astor (Dottie Wingate), Walter Pidgeon (Richard Thurlow), Alan Hale (J.J. Slattery), Scotty Becket (Billie Wingate), Gene Lockhart (Arthur Drubbs), Charley Grapewin (Uncle Joe Higgins); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating:NR; producer: Jack Cummings; MGM Home Entertainment; 1938)
“Saddled with an unconvincing story.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Listen, Darling became the film where Judy Garland first sang one of her signature songs: “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.” It featured two of MGM’s top child stars–the 16-year-old Garland and the 14-year-old Freddie Bartholomew, with the former heading for superstardom and the latter finding his Hollywood luster diminishing and a career as an ad executive awaiting him in adulthood.
Director Edwin L. Marin (“Nocturne”/”Johnny Angel”/”Abilene Town”) keeps things unremarkable in this very ordinary lightweight domestic comedy, that is saddled with an unconvincing story by Katherine Brush. The unimpressive screenplay is by Elaine Ryan, Anne Morrison Chapin and Noel Langley. The film has three good songs (“On the Bumpy Road to Love,” “Ten Pins in the Sky” and the future signature song mentioned above) and nothing much else going for it.
The plot has the almost destitute widow Dottie Wingate (Mary Astor) set to marry for security sourpuss stuffy local banker Arthur Drubbs (Gene Lockhart), even though she doesn’t love him, but her children “Pinkie” Wingate (Judy Garland) and her little brother Billie (Scotty Becket) object. To the rescue comes “Buzz” Mitchell (Freddie Bartholomew), Pinkie’s high school sweetheart, who schemes with Pinkie to abduct Mrs. Wingate in the family trailer and take her to the country. Aided by Buzz’s Uncle Joe (Charley Grapewin), Dottie goes along with the scheme. On the road, they meet another camper, Richard Thurlow (Walter Pidgeon), a bachelor New York City lawyer, an amateur photographer and inventor. The nice man is a “free soul” like Dottie’s late husband, and though attracted to the widow doesn’t want to be tied down with children. The two get off to a bad start but you could put this one in the successful romance column before you can say hogwash, as the meddling kids find inventive ways to bring them together. When the kids meet meet J. J. Slattery (Alan Hale), a wealthy widower who owns an insurance company, and ask the friendly guy to adopt them, Richard comes to his senses and drives off with Dottie and the children to supposedly live happily ever afterwards.
One has to scratch their head at this illogical story, and wonder how the studio could let such a ridiculous story be filmed.
REVIEWED ON 6/14/2010 GRADE: C