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TOO MANY GIRLS (director: George Abbott; screenwriter: from the book and play by George Marion, Jr./John Twist/Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart provide the music; cinematographer: Frank Redman; editor: Willaim Hamilton; music: Rodgers & Hart; cast: Lucille Ball (Connie Casey), Eddie Bracken (Jojo Jordan), Desi Arnaz (Manuelito), Hal Le Roy (Al Terwilliger), Richard Carlson (Clint Kelly), Harry Shannon (Mr. Harvey Casey), Douglas Walton (Beverly Waverly), Ann Miller (Pepe), Chester Clute (Lister), Frances Langford (Eileen Eilers); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: George Abbott/Harry E. Edington; RKO; 1940)
“Where Lucille Ball and Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz first met.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

What a bomb! It was in this witless comedy derived from a Broadway show penned by George Marion, Jr. and scored by Rodgers & Hart, where Lucille Ball and Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz first met. They were the most beloved TV couple of the 1950s, whose “I Love Lucy” show ran from 1951 to 1957. Their twenty year marriage, before a divorce in 1960, was long for Hollywood marriages, and both became extremely wealthy by setting up their own production company Desilu. It was her 59th film (mostly in bit parts) and his first. He played the same part on the stage. The film had one funny line, it referred to a college as Texas Gentile. Some of the musical numbers by Rodgers and Hart were bearable but not memorable and they include “Heroes in the Fall,” “You’re Nearer,” “Pottawatomie,” “‘Cause We Got Cake,” “Spic and Spanish,” “Love Never Went to College,” “Look Out,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” “You’re Nearer” and “Spic and Spanish.” Lucy’s singing was dubbed by Trudy Erwin. It was directed without cinematic skills by George Abbott (“Pajama Game”/”Damn Yankees”); he was known as the “Wizard of Broadway” and produced the stage version of Too Many Girls.

The story has footloose heiress Connie Casey (Lucille Ball) bounced from Switzerland by its president for inappropriate behavior and her overprotective businessman father Harvey Casey (Harry Shannon), the richest man in the country, hiring four Ivy League football stars–Clint Kelly (Richard Carlson), Jojo Jordan (Eddie Bracken, his film debut), Al Terwilliger (Hal Le Roy) and Manuelito (Desi Arnaz) –to be her bodyguards at the Stopgap, New Mexico, small college called Pottawatomie College (dad’s alma mater). The fellows had to sign a clause in their contract forbidding any romantic involvement with Connie. In the meantime the boys are recruited to play football for the college’s weak team and immediately turn it into a powerhouse, and while the season is on they miraculously schedule games with such powerhouses as Nebraska, Columbia and Tennessee. They take turns watching Connie and learn she went to the college to be nearer an older man (Douglas Walton), who is a successful playwright. But soon Connie and Clint fall in love in a chaste way, which after victory at the Big Football game at the end will cement this corny and unappealing romance. Carlson approached the romance as if he were rehearsing for the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Of note, Van Johnson, in his film debut, is one of the uncredited chorus boys but easy to spot. Ann Miller does some nifty tap dancing as a coed. In this film, all the coeds who were never kissed wear beanies (on Broadway it meant they were virgins).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”