Living in a Big Way (1947)


(director/writer: Gregory La Cava; screenwriters: Irving Ravetch/based on a story by La Cava; cinematographer: Harold Rosson; editor: ; music: Lennie Hayton; cast: Gene Kelly (Leo Gogarty), Marie McDonald (Margaud Morgan), Charles Winninger (D. Rutherford Morgan), Phyllis Thaxter (Peggy Randall), Spring Byington (Mrs. Morgan), Wm. “Bill” Phillips (Schultz), Jean Adair (Abigail Morgan), Clinton Sundberg (Everett Hanover Smythe), Barbara Billingsley (G.I. Bill’s Wife), Ellen Corby (Broken Arms’ Sailors Wife), Charles Lane (Hawkins), Marie Windsor (Jane, Junior League Girl), Shelley Winters (Junior League Girls); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro S. Berman; MGM; 1947)
“A flop in its day and still a flop.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A flop in its day and still a flop. A drop-out from filmmaking during the forties because of his booze problem, Gregory La Cava (“Stage Door”/”The Age of Consent”/”My Man Godfrey”) directs this mess of a musical comedy that introduces a serious drama theme or two or three about quickie marriages, the lack of housing for veterans and class warfare. The only thing that salvages it from the garbage is Gene Kelly doing three dancing numbers arranged by him and Stanley Donen. This was Kelly’s first picture since serving in World War II in the Navy. It’s based on a story by Gregory La Cava, who co-wrote it with Irving Ravetch.

Brash Army pilot Leo Gogarty (Gene Kelly) marries poor model Margaud Morgan (Marie McDonald, known as “The Body”) in a nine-day whirlwind romance before shipping out, and doesn’t even have time to consummate the marriage. Three years later at the end of WW II, he and his war buddy Schultz (Wm. “Bill” Phillips) return home and Leo discovers his wife is very wealthy, selfish and spoiled and wants nothing to do with him. But Leo doesn’t believe in divorce and refuses to leave the mansion where she resides. Margaud’s kind-hearted granny, Abigail Morgan (Jean Adair), takes Leo’s side and donates her old house to him and his war buddies. They turn the house into a charitable “G.I. housing project.” In time, the obnoxious Maggie predictably succumbs to Leo’s romantic ploys and also becomes moved by his charity efforts and miraculously, if you believe, turns over a new leaf as a decent woman. She also becomes jealous as pretty war widow Peggy Randall (Phyllis Thaxter) moves into the charity house with her young son and flirts with her Leo. Spring Byington plays Margaud’s greedy mom, who plans to ride out her meal ticket.