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TAKE ME TO TOWN(director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriter: from the story Flame of the Timberline by Richard Morris/Richard Morris; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Milton Carruth; music: F. Hugh Herbert/Milton Rosen; cast: Ann Sheridan (Vermilion O’Toole aka), Sterling Hayden (Will Hall), Phillip Reed (Newton Cole), Lee Patrick (Rose), Lee Aaker (Corney), Harvey Grant (Petey), Dusty Henley (Bucket), Forrest Lewis (Ed Higgins, Storekeeper), Phyllis Stanley (Mrs. Edna Stoffer), Larry Gates (Marshal Ed Daggett); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Leonard Goldstein/Ross Hunter; Universal Pictures; 1953)
“Overly cutesy musical comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Douglas Sirk (“Battle Hymn”/”Hitler’s Madman”/”Meet Me At The Fair”) helms this formulaic overly cutesy musical comedy where everybody is stereotyped and backwoods America is coated with undeserving charm. It’s taken from the story Flame of the Timberline by Richard Morris and innocuously penned by Richard Morris. The film’s best feature is a lively Ann Sheridan, who uses the stage name of Vermilion because it’s one step better than a redhead. There’s also three adorable kiddies (Lee Aaker, Harvey Grant and Dusty Henley), using every Hollywood trick to get our attention until they are overused and their initial cuteness becomes tiresome.

Dance-hall gal Mae Madison, soon to take the moniker of Vermilion O’Toole (Ann Sheridan), escapes from the custody of federal marshal Ed Daggett (Larry Gates) by jumping out a train window and flees to the Pacific Northwest hill town of Timberline to hook up in a barroom vaudeville show run by her friend Rosie (Lee Patrick). Widowed logger Will Hall’s (Sterling Hayden) three kiddies have no one to look after them while he goes logging atop a mountain and the kiddies are afraid that the overbearing widow Edna Stoffer (Phyllis Stanley), who has designs on their pa, will become their mom. So they go into town and choose Vermilion as their substitute mom. She only goes home with them to their country logger’s retreat because the marshal is in the saloon looking for her and she needs a hideout in a hurry. As their housekeeper, she loses her barroom personality overnight to move up a station in life to middle-class respectability by settling into domestic bliss. It turns out that Will is the community’s pastor, and she pitches in to put on a show to raise money to build a new church and in the end settles into being a Bible teacher for Sunday school. This wins the local gossips over, who questioned if she could fit in with their square Christian lifestyle. There’s also the film’s heavy Newton Cole (Phillip Reed), who used his bar in Denver as a clearing house where she innocently got trapped in his scheme and got arrested with him, who returns to lead her back to living a shady life but is rebuffed by her and her strong mountainman.

It does get at Sirk’s usual theme of small-town America’s hypocrisy and intolerance, but does it in a heavy-handed and unconvincing manner. Though it offers up a slice of old-fashioned family values triumphing over a free-spirited showbiz life, its fuzzy warmth for this logger church community seems misplaced.REVIEWED ON 3/12/2007 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”