Tuesday, February 02, 2016

In The “Golden Age Of America” Night-Claudette Colbert’s Let’s Make It Legal

In The “Golden Age Of America” Night-Claudette Colbert’s Let’s Make It Legal

DVD Review

By Zack James

Let’s Make It Legal, starring Claudette Colbert, MacDonald Carey, Zachary Scott, 1951

There has been a lot of reflection lately in the media, on the political stump and around the water cooler by those older generations, the dwindling number of Great Depression and World War II survivors and their progeny, the Generation of ’68 about the 1950s “golden age of America,” they passed through when it looked like all boats, or a lot of them were rising. When working people had a shot at a few of the goods of life and American military might if not unchallenged could hold its own. The age when common cultural artifacts were the stable two parent family, the dream of owning one’s own house, and no troubled waters. This social vision exemplified by the television fare with its very stable (and wise) Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, and The Donna Reed Show. All taking a light-hearted look at the foibles of the modern American family. The film under review, Let’s Make It Legal, although light-hearted enough for the golden age veers off that standard a bit.              

The subject: the last throes of a divorce agreement between one long-suffering wife, played by Claudette Colbert, and one stray cat gambler husband causing that long-suffering, played by MacDonald Carey. (No hint of any hanky-panky on his part with the ladies even though Marilyn Monroe has a small part here just the gambling and hanging with the guys so maybe wifey was right to give the guy the boot, the boor.) The starling thing to my mind whatever humor was involved in the story line was the devil may care attitude toward divorce in the film. Not very Ozzie and Harriet-like but also not very  much like my growing up neighborhood where the lone divorced woman (and her child, my friend Gary) was looked upon as not quite right, not quite fitting in with the ethos of the neighborhood even though he ex-husband was something like the town drunk.

But enough of that. Let’s run through the thin gruel plot. So husband and wife are breaking up the household after twenty something years of marriage due his excessive gambling (although breaking up the household may be too strong a word since he was hovering around the house, which she got in the settlement, more than my hard-working not divorced father ever did but we will let that slide). Problem: their only child, their daughter, their adult daughter with a husband and child is crazy to see them get back together. (The daughter, hubby and child residing in the house with mother something not unusual for twenty-somethings these days but against the norm in the generation-separating 1950s where the young were dying to get out on their own). For most of the film she is unsuccessful in that attempt despite her best plans and despite father’s desire to get back into mother’s (and a grandmother to boot) good graces.               

To add fuel to the fire an old flame of the wife’s, played by Zachary Scott, now a rich eligible bachelor shows up and wants to reignite the flame. That goes on for a bit, a long bit and she almost succumbs but that bachelor has been a bachelor too long, is too set on a big governmental career appointment and so back she goes to her ex. Some funny lines here but I am still scratching my head over the poor treatment of my poor friend’s mother who was seen in the neighborhood like some fallen woman and not as just a sensible woman. Go figure. 


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